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The Importance of Over-the-Phone Interpretation for Emergency Services

The Importance of Over-the-Phone Interpretation for Emergency Services

Imagine calling 911 in a state of crisis at the scene of an emergency situation, only to hear the call handler trying to understand you. And there’s nothing wrong with the connection—the poor communication is only because the person doesn’t speak your language.

This kind of scenario should never happen under any circumstances. Everyone should be able to confidently rely on 911, no matter what language/s they speak, given the types of emergencies that require immediate assistance.

The US has always been and continues to be a country of people who speak all kinds of languages. In fact, according to the 2020 US Census, 8.3% of the US population over the age of five speaks English “less than very well.” That’s a lot of people who might struggle to communicate efficiently with an English-speaking 911 call handler. And that doesn’t cover the 79 million international tourists who visited the US in 2019.

With this demand for multilingual over-the-phone interpreters in the emergency services sector, 911 call centers and local emergency service providers must do all they can to optimize their nationwide services and manage the large threshold of languages spoken in their inbound calls.

We here at TransPerfect Connect have some all-important information about over-the-phone interpretation. If you’re a local emergency service provider in need of top-quality over-the-phone interpreting services, you can rely on us.

Here’s an outline of why 911 interpreters are so important.

Who Are 911 Interpreters? What Does Over-the-Phone Interpretation Entail?

Chances are you already know who 911 interpreters are and what their roles entail—but it’s worth mentioning again why they play a vital part in emergency call handling.

911 interpreters are over-the-phone (OPI) interpreters who are specially trained in dealing with emergency calls. OPI interpreters need to communicate quickly and effectively.

Usually, OPI interpreters are highly trained linguists. They connect to emergency calls to obtain vital information from the caller and respond to requests for help. It’s essentially a similar role to the standard 911 call handler, but with a specific purpose to interpret non-English languages.

We here at TransPerfect believe the three most important attributes of any OPI interpreter are professionalism, language proficiency, and subject-matter expertise. With emergency call OPI interpreters, the subject-matter expertise involves knowing how to calmly and efficiently deal with an emergency incident. These calls are quite literally a matter of life or death.

Why Are 911 Phone Interpreters Becoming Even More Important?

#1 The Demand for 911 Interpreters Is Increasing
Communities across the US are changing. Non-English-speaking populations are growing quickly, meaning the demand for 911 interpreters is also growing. According to the 2015 US Census, over 25 million people living in the US speak English “less than very well.” The sooner emergency services and call centers respond to these demands, the better they become at handling emergencies from all sorts of non-English-speaking callers. Communities of all languages need support from dependable emergency services.

#2 They Provide a Higher Quality of Call Handling
911 interpreters receive high-quality training that teaches them effective techniques for handling emergencies. Their skills as multilingual interpreters work hand in hand with their jobs as situational 911 call handlers. With advanced language skills, a 911 interpreter can relay the right information to the right emergency services and respond to the emergency accurately and efficiently. High-quality over-the-phone interpretation services should always be the objective.

#3 OPI Interpreters Are Specially Trained for Over-the-Phone Conversations
The training for emergency over-the-phone interpreting services is specific because OPI interpreters need to adapt to specific challenges. On top of handling difficult on-the-spot situations, they also need to interpret without any visual perception or nuances. Interpreting without the aid of facial expressions, body language, or general context is a different ball game than face-to-face interpretation in a non-emergency situation. That’s why it’s important to have thorough, detailed training and ongoing professional development for 911 phone interpreters.

#4 Not All Local Emergency Call Centers Can Afford Interpreters on Staff
With local emergency call centers working within tight budgets, in-house OPI training is likely off the table—and the same with hiring in-house 911 interpreters. Sometimes the only choice is to outsource experienced and specially trained 911 phone interpreters from trusted over-the-phone interpreting services and agencies. Local budgets simply won’t stretch far enough to cover extensive-enough 911 interpreting services. Emergency OPI is certainly not something that can be skimped on.

#5 They’re Prepared for Every Possible Scenario
All emergency service call centers need access to the very best resources, tools, and technologies to work with non-English calls. The right interpreting systems should be in place to optimize operations and maximize call response efficiency to be fully equipped and prepared.

#6 It’s Not Possible for 911 Dispatchers to Speak Every Possible Language
911 call dispatchers work as the first point of action in any emergency incident across the entire country. However, you can’t expect the entire workforce of an emergency service call center to be multilingual. That’s where 911 phone interpreters come in to take over and break down the communication barrier. They’re the right-hand people to 911 call dispatchers.

How Can TransPerfect Connect Help with 911 Services?

Are you a local emergency service provider or call center looking to improve your operations? Are you in need of improved over-the-phone interpreting services?

TransPerfect Connect recognizes the serious weight of what you do. There is marginal room for error. The role of a 911 interpreter is one of the most demanding and important forms of interpretation, and that’s why we dedicate three weeks of intensive training to prepare our interpreters. They also receive ongoing training and skills development.

Our 911 Interpreters Are Skilled
Our 911 phone interpreters are trained in the following areas of emergency call interpretation:

●    Obtaining address information from limited English proficient (LEP) callers.
●    Following a 911 call dispatcher’s lead in tone, intensity, and urgency of the call.
●    Mitigating cross-cultural communication barriers.
●    Handling emergencies calmly.
●    Speaking with family members and children.
●    Responding to violent crimes, including domestic violence.
●    Dealing with non-English speakers with impaired mental states.

We Use Reliable Technology
911 interpreters can’t do their job properly without the use of reliable technology. We equip all of our telecommunication providers with:

●    The fastest connections in the industry.
●    Secured facilities requiring dual authentication.
●    Full generator and battery backup.
●    Redundant fiber providers.
●    HIPAA and PCI compliance.
●    99.999% operational uptime.
●    Online real-time analytics portal.
●    ANI and Account Code invoicing for security and easy departmental reconciliation.

We Provide Reliable Operations
TransPerfect Connect’s operations provide the reliability you need by utilizing fast and secure system technologies.

●    We operate a large-scale 24/7 contact center. We’re always there when you need us.
●    Our largely distributed service network spans multiple geographically separated colocation and contact center facilities.
●    Our call centers operate securely. Our strict security measures ensure all highly sensitive data is protected.

Get in Touch with TransPerfect

Are you looking for unfailing over-the-phone interpretation to optimize your emergency services?

With over 100 offices, TransPerfect Connect is the world’s leading provider of device-independent, real-time, remote over-the-phone interpreting services. We use state-of-the-art technology and have built secure contact centers to house our expert interpreters. By choosing us, you’ll have access to a wide range of solutions within seconds—in over 170 languages.

If you’d like to discuss how TransPerfect Connect can support your local 911 over-the-phone interpreting services, please get in touch. We’re happy to give you a free quote.

Got an extra two minutes? Watch our short video to learn how TransPerfect can help you break through the language barrier.