First responders working to overcome the language barrier in emergencies

CSRA News

Augusta University Health is training it’s medical interpreters this month to bridge the gap of languages to help patients.

NewsChannel 6’s Devin Johnson spoke with local dispatch departments to find out how the impact of different languages can be crucial when seconds matter during an emergency.

“We don’t want to allow a service not to be available for somebody, only because they have difficulty in speaking English,” explained Columbia County Sheriffs’ Office Lieutenant John Sherman.

The CSRA is in full transition, in becoming the hub of cyber command.

As the area continues to grow and diversify, so makes the demand for medical attention.

AU Health is preparing its medical interpreters for different scenarios to help patients who speak a different language.

Before they get to the hospital, those people may have to go through first responders.

Sherman told NewsChannel 6, Columbia County dispatch is aware of the demographic growth and has a language barrier system in place.  

“We’ll briefly give them the situation of what’s going on to the best of our knowledge,” said Lt. Sherman. “The interpreters are going to sit there and listen to that conversation. We are still going to engage with the caller; while the third party is interpreting in between sentences.”

The system is called “Language Line Solutions.” The software has dozens of foreign languages, that picks up on the different dialect. 

Sherman says it is good for when first responders arrive at the scene, and can’t properly communicate with the person.

“If they ask a question to us, we can have them on the line at headquarters,” explained Lt. Sherman. “We can get that person on the field if they have a cell phone, then we can get them involved in the conversation.”

Devin also spoke with North Augusta Public Safety Lieutenant Tim Thornton, to see what our neighbors across the border are doing to help bridge the language gap in emergencies.

Thornton says his officers make it a goal to learn first hand so they can help.

“Some officers take it upon themselves to learn those catchphrases,” said Lt. Thornton. “We do the best we can on those scenes to communicate the best we can.”

The “Bridge the Gap” class AU Health will cover courses including interpreter role-playing, the role of the interpreter and techniques.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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