Every day, Owensboro-Daviess County Central Dispatch is tasked with helping community members in life-changing situations. To ensure that each resident can receive assistance equally, the dispatch center spends approximately $200 a month on translation services for non-fluent English speakers.
Paul Nave, director of the ODC Central Dispatch, said they are using various avenues to communicate and learn about the situation as quickly as possible.
“It’s very important to understand that people always go back to their native language in an emergency because it’s a nice instinct,” Nave said.
Through language learning and telespeech, dispatchers have a third person on the line to help translate all incoming communications from the customer.
Together both agencies cover 150 different languages.
If a customer cannot make a call, an SMS hotline is also available. Any text from the customer to the ODC Dispatch Center is translated from the customer’s language into English and the response is translated back.
Nave said the dispatch center communicated nearly 2,500 minutes in countless non-English languages in 2021 alone.
They saw predominantly Spanish, Rohingya (a language native to Myanmar) and Somali (a language of East Africa).
While the response process is slowed down just a bit to ensure correct translation, Nave said it’s not a huge time difference.
“We take it very seriously because I don’t care where you’re from or what language you speak because I don’t care about emergencies,” Nave said. “An emergency is an emergency, and if you’re passing through or living here, it’s my job to get you help.”
While the translator typically makes phone calls for dispatch interaction, he said that if a responder needs a translator for any case, they can provide one.
And while Nave said translators are helpful, he would like to have staff equipped to speak other languages as well.
In the meantime, they will continue to use the systems in place to provide a proper service to the community.