June 7, 2019 Seattle, WA –
The Text-911 Translation TechFest was a technology innovation demonstration designed to encourage nationwide efforts to improve technologies to support public safety communications and response. The program engaged public safety practitioners and solution providers to help first responders improve the safety of communities nationwide. The TechFest team included the IJIS Institute; the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT); Language Line, Language Service Provider (LSP); AGENT511, INdigital and RapidDeploy, PSAP text translation service providers; and Google the leading supplier of Machine Translation (MT) solutions. West Public Safety and Comtech both provided the capability to deliver a text from the wireless carriers to the PSAPs. The RedFlash Group, our media partner, chronicled the event and conducted interviews of participants.
When DHS S&T and IJIS began the project in February of 2015, less than three percent of the nation’s 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), also known as 911 call centers, had implemented Text-to-911. Since then, not only has the number of PSAPs using the platform increased to 30 percent, but federal, state, and local laws have required call centers to ensure that the platform is available to the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. Currently, almost 28 million people across the United States are identified as LEP and need to be accommodated as more PSAPs implement the technology in their respective communities.
“We anticipate the end result of this joint project will be a national standard for implementing Text-to-911 to LEP populations as well as operational, business, and training protocols that will ensure consistent national implementation,” said DHS S&T program manager Denis Gusty. The TechFest provided insight to the advancements in currently available translation technology and also highlighted restrictions in translation, such as colloquial terminology and text shorthand. Overall, the TechFest revealed the need for further research and development to ensure 911 calls are answered efficiently and first responders are provided the correct information to respond.
Presently, DHS S&T and IJIS are researching best practices as well as interviewing experts in emergency communication, next generation 911 technology and public safety to develop standards that will be implemented nationally. DHS S&T and IJIS anticipate pilot tests with Arlington and Prince William counties in Virginia to test the protocols as well as determine estimated costs of nationwide implementation. These test pilots will begin in late summer of 2019