MetroSafe 911 operators work around communication barriers during emergency calls
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When calls come into 911, each second counts. And 911 operators are called the first, first responders.
“We're the first ones that are getting that call for help," said Mitchell Burmeister with Louisville Metro Emergency Services. "And so time is of the essence."
But what happens when the operator can't understand the caller or vice versa?
“I will try my best to speak and say, 'Please don't hang up,'" said 911 operator Ruth Williams. "That's the main thing. We don’t want them to hang up."
If the caller speaks a different language, operators will conference call an interpreter.
It happened just last week during an incident where police shot and killed a man who was holding a knife to his wife. The MetroSafe 911 operator had to get an Arabic interpreter on the line.
And on the Fourth of July, a deaf man called 911 after crushing his foot between train cars in southern Indiana. MetroSafe did not handle this call, but operators are trained to communicate with the hearing impaired through a TTY System or through the Kentucky Relay Service.
“They can video conference with someone through American sign language,” Burmeister said.
While there is technology called Next Generation 911 which allows you to text in your emergency, Kentucky is not there just yet.
“Here at MetroSafe, our phone system is Next Gen 911 compliant, so we're ready whenever the state infrastructure is built to allow those messages,” Burmeister said.
Currently, the state is not equipped to handle data transmission of texts and picture messaging. In the meantime, MetroSafe officials encourage people to sign up for Smart 911 and fill out a personal profile. It gives 911 operators key information they need to know about you immediately, like language barriers, based off the number you call from.
“We can initiate, in that instance, a text message conversation to that individual," Burmeister said. "So we can't receive incoming 911 texts, but should you have a smart 911 profile, we can then initiate text message conversation with you and get you the help that you need."
Burmeister said Smart 911 is an underutilized feature that MetroSafe started using in December of last year. To create a profile, click here.
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