Porter County Sheriff's Department

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Department


Language Translation Service

Whatever language, 911 can help

County hires company to translate during calls

BY KEN KOSKY Date posted online: Sunday, July 22, 2007


VALPARAISO | People living in Porter County or just passing through can get help in an emergency -- no matter what language they speak -- now that the county's 911 dispatchers reach translators who speak 170 different languages.  Porter County 911 Director Dave Sheibels said the county signed on with California-based Language Line Services one month ago. Now, anytime someone dials 911 and speaks in a foreign language, dispatchers can press a button on their computer and reach a translator to talk to the foreign language-speaking caller.  Sheibels said Porter County never took advantage of the service before because there was a monthly fee and 911 calls in a different language were almost nonexistent.   But now Porter County is receiving a call every couple of months from a Spanish-speaking person. In addition, Language Line Services has dropped its monthly fee and now charges 911 centers $1.25 a minute -- which translates to $2.50 for the average 911 call. Sheibels said the $10 the county might spend each year on the service is well worth it.  "It's the whole mission of public safety ... to provide help to anyone who is in our county whether they're traveling through or live here," he said.  "We don't differentiate. We need to get them help.  "Sheibels said the county signed up with the service June 21, and two days later received a 911 call from a Spanish-speaking man. Dispatcher Pat Cleary got a Language Line translator on the line within seconds and the translator found out the caller was in a dispute with another person over the ownership of a car.  Sheibels said the Hispanic population is rising, so dispatchers will see more and more need to communicate with those who speak only Spanish. But the service could just as easily be used to help a vacationer from another country, even if the dispatcher doesn't recognize the language. In cases like that, Language Line's voice recognition software allows them to determine the language being spoken and link that person with a person who speaks the same language.  Sheibels said Language Line has people who speak 170 different languages available 24 hours a day.  Hobart police announced earlier this year that they were using the service.  The company also offers, for an additional charge, a service that allows emergency responders to use their cellular phones to call from a scene and reach a translator.


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