DHS Awards Text-to-911 Translation Project to IJIS / iCERT
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Posted by: Martha Hill
DHS Science and Technology Directorate Awards IJIS Institute and iCERT Text-to-911 Translation Contract
Translation service to aid communications between call takers and those with Limited English Proficiency
Ashburn, Va. (June 14, 2016). The IJIS Institute — a nonprofit organization that focuses on mission‐critical information sharing for justice, public safety, and homeland security — and iCERT a nonprofit industry group focused on the development of emergency response technologies have been awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), First Responders Group (FRG) to support a Text-to-911 Translation project. This new public safety capability will enhance communications between emergency call takers at public safety answering points (PSAPs) and those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach emergency call takers from a mobile phone or other device. There are scenarios when calling 911 is not optimal, nor possible. For many citizens, residents and visitors in America with Limited English Proficiency, emergency situations can become compounded when trying to communicate with emergency services. Text-to-911 is being deployed across the United States, however, it is currently available in limited locations and only in English. A solution for real-time translation of incoming and outgoing non-English texts in public safety call centers (PSAP) does not currently exist.
Census data reveals that 61 million people nationwide speak a language other than English in their home. For the 28 million citizens and residents who self-identify as LEP, a variety of federal directives, and state and local laws, require that 911 be available to these populations. Immediate collaboration is needed among emergency responders, standards setting organizations, technology providers and policy makers to enable this new public safety service.
IJIS Institute and iCERT are leading a team to develop the nation’s first Text-to-911 Translation program. Working with their partner, CyraCom, LLC, which will develop the translation service, IJIS and iCERT will provide overall management of the program, public awareness and outreach, policy development and standards guidance. The result of the program will be (12) demonstration pilots across the country and a standard for implementing Text-to-911 for LEP populations as well as operational, business and training protocols that will ensure a consistent national implementation of the program.
Denis Gusty, DHS Program Manager, said that, “S&T recognizes that Text-to-911 can provide a valuable tool, not just for the public, but for emergency first responders to receive as much information as possible about the situation they may be encountering.” Gusty further stated, “Language barriers can be overcome with a national standard translation application that facilitates vital information through existing platforms to PSAPs and then on to the first responders.”
Steve Ambrosini, Executive Director of the IJIS Institute said, “We are pleased to be involved in such an important ground breaking program.” Ambrosini further stated, “The real-time text-to-911 translation service will be the first of its kind in the nation. In those locations embracing the new service, their LEP populations will be assured that their emergency needs will be met through this new service.”
“Citizens and residents, as well as visitors to America, will all benefit from this burgeoning service,” said iCERT Executive Director George Rice. “Translating text messages to 911 will be a key feature for the delivery of emergency response across our diverse nation.”