Text to 9-1-1 and Language Translation

 

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In certain areas of the United States there are large segments of the local population that do not speak English.

In 9-1-1 Call Centers (PSAP’s) today, it is common practice to have a third party language translation service under contract. For example, a 9-1-1 call is received and the call taker does not speak Spanish. It is a simple process to add a Spanish speaking translator to the 9-1-1 call.

Most translation firms offer this service for numerous languages.

We recently held a meeting with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to discuss the implementation of Text to 9-1-1 on a regional basis. Paul McLaren, of West Safety Services (formerly Intrado) provided a technical overview. I was surprised to learn that -Today- it is not possible to ‘bridge in’ a third party translation service to a 9-1-1 text ( or any third party). There were a number of reasons identified, technical limitations, security, etc.

Here in South Florida, launching an ‘English-Only’ 9-1-1 Text service will need careful consideration and approval.

What would happen if you were working a shift in a 9-1-1 center and, on your screen, you receive a text in a foreign language?

If you have plans to move forward with a Text to 9-1-1 solution in your area, it will be important, in today’s scenario, to educate the public on language availability. You also need an emergency ‘contingency plan’.

Text can certainly be a useful tool, it is important that we understand all of the facts prior to implementation.

 

One comment

  1. At present, the wireless TCC’s do not unilaterally support inbound special characters such as foreign languages. Language Line has been working on a live Spanish language text to 911 translation service.

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