Local 911 dispatchers have interpreters ready 24/7 by pressing a button

On Tuesday night, a frantic man called the Butler County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center to get help for a friend who went underwater in Four Mile Creek. He spoke only Spanish, but a touch of a button solved the language barrier quickly.

That’s because dispatchers have access to LanguageLine Solutions, where interpreters fluent in a host of languages are on call 24/7 for fast translation in emergency situations.

In the recent call, the dispatcher seemed to know basic words the caller was saying, but needed help to understand and get emergency services to the right location fast.

The dispatcher said, “Hold on one second, Un momento.”

Seconds later an interpreter from LanguageLine Solutions introduced himself and began conversing with the caller.

The company, based in California, provides on-demand and in-person professional interpreters in 240 languages.

Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said the dispatch center has used the service for more than a decade.

“It’s programed so when they (dispatcher) get a call, they just hit a button and it automatically connects the calls, they give a pin and it identifies to them (translation service) the it is us,” Dwyer said. “It is not terribly expensive and it is pretty effective.”

Dwyer said it’s not just for Spanish, translation for other languages, including Russian and Chinese have been used. The translation service is used on average about 70 times a month by Butler County dispatchers.

The price tag averages $600 per month based on the number of calls and the length of the call, according to Dwyer.

The department has some bilingual personnel, and many dispatchers, deputies and corrections officers have picked up “enough to get by,” but in an emergency situations the translation service is essential.

Dwyer said it has been used on occasion by detectives and corrections officers.

“We’ve found it has been very beneficial,” he said.

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