Indiana launches translation services for text-to-911 – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather forecast

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A woman who works extensively with Indianapolis’ Latinx community said Thursday that the availability of 911 text translation was a relief.

Luisa Rocha said her sister had to call 911 for friends who had been robbed and didn’t speak English well enough to explain their needs to dispatchers themselves. She said access to 911 services is a big problem for members of the Latinx community and for others who have difficulty with English.

“It’s so stressful. Can you imagine you wanted to tell me something and you can’t communicate with me?” she said. “It’s so frustrating if you can’t tell me what you have needed at that time.”

Translators are available for voice calls but, until this year, text services were only available in English. The state rolled out texting to 911 between 2014 and 2018 for situations where it was too dangerous for someone to make a voice call to a 911 center, such as in a domestic violence case. On Thursday, Indiana’s 92 counties began offering machine translation services for texting 911.

Ed Reuter, executive director of the Statewide 911 Board, said the software can translate 108 different languages. He said the system could save time compared to bringing a translator online.

“It will build confidence in individuals knowing that someone is going to hear their message of help and someone can come out and respond to them,” he said.

Jason Haddix, president of the Indiana National Emergency Number Association, said the upgrade simply involved adding software to the existing text messaging system to 911, a process that took about 5 to 10 minutes. Haddix, who is also a shift supervisor for the Hancock County 911 center in Greenfield, said his dispatchers were taking more and more calls from someone who needed a translator. He said he expects the need to grow further as more employers come to the area.

“We always ask the community to call us because it’s faster, better, but (text) is another tool we use,” he said.

Rocha said the ability to text 911 in Spanish will save lives. She said not having to wait for a translator will save time and encourage people to contact emergency services immediately in an emergency.

Officials will officially unveil the new system next week.

Connie A. Bailey