Text-to-911 translation now available


The Indiana Statewide 911 Board, in collaboration with INdigital and the state treasurer’s office, recently announced another tool that enhances communications between non-English-speaking citizens and emergency services.

Since 2019, dispatchers at all of Indiana’s public safety answering points have had access to Language Line, which provides voice translating services for 911 callers. Over the past three years, Indiana telecommunicators have used voice translation services for nearly 70 of the more than 250 languages available.

Spanish is the most frequently translated language used, comprising of 91% of the translation calls. Marion, Elkhart, Allen, White and Tippecanoe counties are the top five users of the system.

Speaking at the Metropolitan Emergency Services Agency on March 30, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, chairwoman of the state 911 board, unveiled significant enhancements to the Text-to-911 system.

Citizens can now send text messages in their native language directly to 911 for help, and they will be automatically translated for the dispatcher. As the dispatcher responds, it will be automatically translated back into the native language of the sender. There are 108 languages available for Text-to-911 translation.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is among those able to translate other languages through the 911 texting system, according to a news release from the department.

“Text-to-911 enables direct access to emergency services for those who are deaf or speaking-impaired, having a medical emergency that prevents them from being able to speak or in a situation where making a voice call would put them in danger,” Mitchell said.

“We’ve already seen the benefits of texting to 911,” she said. “It allows people in sensitive situations to communicate with law enforcement, and now, we are removing the language barriers to those services.”

In 2014, Indiana was one of the first states to begin implementing Text-to-911, and by 2016, all 92 counties had the capability.

As a result, Indiana telecommunicators have processed more than 1.3 million inbound and outbound text sessions.

“With technology constantly evolving, this upgrade shows why Indiana is on the forefront in providing 911 services to our non-English-speaking citizens,” said Ed Reuter, executive director of the state’s 911 board. “This new translation upgrade will help bridge the communication gap and speed up sending emergency services when every second counts.”

Mark Grady, chief executive officer of INdigital, said his company works to improve 911 service every day.

“Strong state programs like Indiana lead the nation with good legislation, targeted funding and letting us build better systems,” he said. “Our goal is for everyone to have access to 911 when they need it most. Bridging language barriers and providing more ways to communicate are essential in today’s world.”

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