When someone calls 911, they now don’t have to speak fluent English and can almost certainly have their words translated into English and assistance dispatched to them in just a few minutes.
E-Comm 911 is the biggest first contact provider in B.C. and handles 99 per cent of all 911 calls in the province.
They operate as either a call handling service who then send information to emergency service dispatch centres or they cut out the middle-man and dispatch the emergency services directly after taking the call.
For example in Saanich, police officers are dispatched by E-Comm 911, while the fire department have their own dispatch service. The first contact a caller will have will be with a E-Comm 911 call taker.
E-Comm 911 has two centres in B.C. – one in Vancouver and one in Saanich.
They have teamed up with Language Line, a U.S.-based translation service to better assist callers who do not speak English.
“How it works is the person calls 911 and if they are unable to speak English, they just need to say their language and the call taker will contact a translator and it becomes a three way call with the translator,” says Jasmine Bradley, E-Comm 911 corporate communications manager.
Rather than using voice capture technology, which can have mixed results, the caller will be able to talk directly to a translator and answer questions posed by the call handler.
The service is available 24/7 but there are some things E-Comm 911 want people to be aware of.
Bradley says that even if someone only speaks a smattering of English or French it is often best to try to communicate that way before a translator is called. She also advises family and friends of people who don’t speak English to help them learn the words for police, fire, ambulance and the name of their language in English.