Thursday, September 4, 2014

9-1-1: We speak your language

The City of Calgary’s 9-1-1 centre connects citizens with the emergency services they need whether it be police, fire or medical. But what happens when a caller doesn’t speak English?
“Calgary is a diverse community and a popular tourist destination and we strive to provide the best service possible, regardless of what language is spoken,” says Commander Richard Hinse.
When a call comes in from someone who doesn’t speak English, a language service is accessed via telephone to help the emergency communications officer obtain pertinent information on the caller’s emergency.
“The language service we use provides interpreters for more than 200 languages,” says Emergency Communications Officer Ayuz Mukadam. “Using the interpreter we get the information we need to send the appropriate first responders.”
Translation available any time you call
This service is available to emergency communications officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Just last month we received more than 200 calls from citizens whose primary language was not English,” says Commander Hinse. “We were able to connect people speaking 26 different languages to the emergency services they needed.”
Staff also speak multiple languages
Assisting citizens doesn’t always involve accessing the language service. The 9-1-1 centre is a diverse workplace and a number of staff speak a second or multiple languages. Where possible, efforts are made to match an emergency communications officer that speaks the same language with the caller.
“You can really sense the relief in a caller’s voice when they are able to communicate with us in their native language,” says Emergency Communications Officer Mukadam, who also speaks Kutchi, a language spoken in the Kutch region of the Indian state of Gujarat as well as in the Pakistani province of Sindh. 
“It’s very rewarding to be able to connect callers with the emergency services they need on what could be the worst day of their lives, regardless of what language they speak."
Read more about www.calgary.ca/911.
Submitted by Tanja McMorris, Public Safety Communications 

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