Call 9-1-1 First! Please? 7/24/13

call-911Well, it happened again last night.

An emergency at a workplace, the police were needed ‘right now’, but the person didn’t call 9-1-1.  They did call a 7 digit number for help, but it wasn’t to the Police.  They called their boss.  Not because of any nonsensical rule by the company that employees could only call the boss, but because the victim didn’t speak English.  So they called the boss, who also doesn’t speak English, who then called someone else, who called on a 7 digit, non-emergency line.

All the while, the bad guy was getting away.

By the time we got the call, he was long gone, and even if the police had happened to pass him on their way to the scene, they had no information to recognize him with.

There’s something very important I want to tell you.  Call 9-1-1 FIRST!  If you routinely translate for someone who doesn’t speak English, tell them to call 9-1-1 if they have an emergency, before they call anyone else.  We can get a translator for just about any language on the planet, in moments, to join us on the phone.  I’ve been working the 9-1-1 phones for 19 years now, and we’ve never been stumped by a language request in all that time.  (My most exotic language requests? Russian and Tagalog. Mostly it’s Spanish.)

Remind your friends and family that don’t speak English that seconds count, and the only thing they really need to speak in English is the name of their language.  As long as we can figure that out, we’ll get someone on the line to translate.

The impulse is to call someone you know will understand you, but they don’t know the questions to ask, or what information we need.  Resist that, and call 9-1-1 first.  We’ll get a professional translator on the line, and get you help much faster.  Seconds can count, and playing telephone tag wastes time.

Help us help you.  Call 9-1-1 first.  Tell people you know that language is not a barrier to speaking to emergency operators.

The usual disclaimer:  this is blog was not approved by my employer, or any other 9-1-1 related agency or organization.  These are my own comments, and may or may not reflect official policies or statements.  

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