United States Census data reveals that more than 60 million people nationwide speak a language other than English. For the 28 million citizens and residents who self-identify as Limited English Proficient (LEP), contacting 911 in an emergency can be a challenge. There are a variety of federal, state, and local laws requiring that 911 be accessible and available to LEP populations, and Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) currently use interpreters or interpreting services to translate the telephone calls for help from LEP callers.
Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message for help to a PSAP from a mobile device, and it is becoming more and more common across the US. There are scenarios where calling 911 is not optimal or possible, as in the case of domestic violence situations, home break-ins, mass shootings, and hostage situations, and Text-to-911 can make a true difference in the outcome of the situation. But for LEP populations and PSAPs, texts in languages other than English can present a real problem in getting help to people that need it.
The IJIS Institute is managing a Text-to-911 Translation project that includes developing, piloting, and testing a solution that will result in a standard for implementing Text-to-911 for LEP populations. The project also includes the creation of operational, business, and training protocols that will ensure a consistent, national implementation. It is anticipated that this new public safety service will enable industry, standards development organizations, PSAPs, 911 call center technology providers, and policy makers to address interoperability, technology needs, and standards to enable Text-to-911 and enhance communication between emergency service providers and LEP communities.