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Limited English Proficiency 911

By definition, emergency calls are stressful.  Now imagine calling 911 and trying to explain your emergency to an operator who speaks another language. In the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) 911 research project, researchers looked for ways to improve communication in these events. A partnership with King County, Washington made this work possible.

Signage in ChinaThe county allowed researchers access to call data and recordings so they could be evaluated. Researchers also had regular monthly meetings with the King County Dispatcher Working Group.

After information was gathered from focus groups and surveys, researchers analyzed reports from LEP 911 calls as well as audio recordings of 911 calls involving LEP callers. From this information, they developed new, evidence-based protocols for 911 dispatchers to help in communicating better with LEP callers and dispatching the appropriate responders.

Findings from this study have informed new protocols for 911 operators, emergency call center staff, and others who are using phone-based emergency response systems. Recommended changes were presented to King County in November 2012, and their implementation began in January 2013.

Another exciting element of partnerships like this one with the County is the close work researchers get to perform with professionals in the field. Primary investigator, Hendrika Meishke, PhD, remarked, “We are currently working on getting a grant to study something that was suggested to us by someone who manages dispatchers. It’s another enormous benefit to these partnerships.”