Ingham County transitions to new 911 translation service

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Ingham County is adopting a new translation service to help non-English speakers make emergency 911 calls.

A 911 police dispatcher speaks with a colleague. The 911 call center is divided into sections of emergency types: police, ambulance, fire station and more.

“Nowhere is it probably more important than a 911 center where you really have to have someone immediately,” said District 5 Ingham County Commissioner Todd Tennis.

Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch Administration staff attended a conference to gather information on three interpretation services and speak with other 911 centers using TeleLanguage. TeleLanguage provided a free trial for the 911 employees, who preferred the service over Language Line, which it has been using.

District 13 Commissioner Randy Schafer showed support for the resolution during the Oct. 5 finance committee meeting.

Schafer said, “Ingham County is a very diverse county. There are over 56 languages spoken in Ingham County, so it’s vital that we have interpretation services available at 911 to assist people.”

The Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch Administration has been using Language Line as the main source of interpretation but is now operating with TeleLanguage as the primary provider with Language Line as a backup.

TeleLanguage provides languages including Spanish, Burmese, Swahili and more. 

Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch Administration Director Barb Davidson said, “We’ve been using Language Line for a considerable amount of time, but we’ve noticed a little bit of delay. Everything in our world relies on seconds … We have to be able to service the citizens of Ingham County. So, I have to have someone who can be reliable. … Which is why we will never just have one.”

According to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee Oct. 5 agenda, TeleLanguage commits to flat rates and will save the Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch Administration approximately 60% compared to Language Line.

District 3 Commissioner Derrell Slaughter said, “This service provided is going to be really helpful for the dispatcher who is having to make those quick decisions on the fly. Having these interpreted services are going to go a long way to make sure that folks are getting the right service or being able to respond to that emergency quickly.”