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Emergency Response for People with Limited English
First Responders face challenges everyday on emergency calls, and language barriers are among the challenges.  In May 2016, Centre County 911 transitioned to a different interpreter service known as Voiance, based out of Tuscon, Arizona, with the intention to enhance quality of interpretation services in Centre County.  Voiance supports hundreds of emergency service clients from dispatch centers to police, fire/EMS, rescue agencies and hospitals across the United States.  Voiance interpreters adhere to strict security and privacy regulations.  They are classroom trained in speaking medical emergencies and ambulatory situations, as well as, pre-arrival instructions to include CPR.  They are skilled in obtaining information resulting from accidents, domestic violence situations and other violent crimes, or speaking with children, and they work from a contact center in the United States.
 
In addition to a change in interpretation service, a new tool has been added.  It is the Centre County Emergency I Speak Card.  The purpose of the I Speak Card is to reduce language barriers between callers and first responders by referring to pre-identified facts written on the card, such as preferred language before locating an interpreter.  Eliminating language barriers can save lives and save time. We understand that most non-English speaking households have at least one person who can interpret for the family, often a child.  But there are times when another source is needed.  Our goal is to help in those moments.

The I Speak Card is to be presented to first responders upon their arrival aiding everyone involved at the scene by determining the language immediately, and hopefully connect to an interpreter faster.  The I Speak Card currently printed in Mandarin, Russian, Spanish and German languages, encompasses the English translation also, and will be developed with additional languages as needed. The back of the card holds a list of local emergency telephone numbers as a quick resource of information.  We hope this card will enhance emergency services, and reduce hesitation often felt by people calling 911 when they have limited English.

I Speak Cards are available at these locations:
  • Women’s Resource Center at 140 W. Nittany Avenue;
  • Schlow Library at 211 S. Allen St;
  • Mid State Literacy Council at 248 E. Calder Way,
  • Global Connections located in the Boucke Building on Penn State Campus
  • Willowbank Office Building (reception area) in Bellefonte.