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Editorial: New services offer extra assistance in emergencies


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Bartholomew County residents are in better position to respond to emergency situations than ever before.

With the introduction of two new resources on top of local efforts in recent years to improve advanced warning and notification systems, residents now have a greater chance to get quick responses when calling for help or to remain safe in potentially dangerous situations.

One new service, Language Line, provides translations of emergency 911 calls in 180 languages. It was implemented Feb. 19 by the Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Center. There is an added benefit for local residents in that Language Line doesn’t require local tax dollars because it’s paid for through the Indiana State 911 Board.

Its purpose is to help residents for whom English is a second language. That’s important in Bartholomew County because 7 percent of the population is foreign-born and the Asian population is three times the state average.

The impetus was the 911 call on July 25 from Hiroko Nakao to a dispatcher after an airplane slammed into her home. The dispatcher could only understand the word “fire.”

Language Line already has had an impact since its implementation. When a man called 911 in early March and spoke in Spanish, the dispatcher called Language Line. Within two minutes, one of the 5,000 interpreters employed by Language Line Services was on the phone with the caller and learned that a co-worker had passed out on the floor of a downtown business, possibly from an electrical shock. That gave the dispatcher crucial information to share with emergency responders.

Just as important, a translation subcommittee is compiling a list of local translators who can help with disaster assistance, fire and police investigations and putting out live and recorded messages on the county’s emergency notification system, which was launched last year.

The emergency notification system informs residents of potentially dangerous situations by landline phone, cellphone, text messages and email. It can send messages in 13 different languages. The messages have been helpful when severe storm conditions have arisen. The system recently gained the ability to notify all schools should an emergency situation arise in their area, such as an armed robbery.

When Bartholomew County residents think of disaster, though, what first comes to mind for many is the June 7, 2008 flood. It caused about $500 million in damage to businesses and more than 2,900 homes, and claimed three lives.

The flood caught residents by surprise. However, local emergency officials recently welcomed the introduction of a free flood app from the American Red Cross. The app provides access to real-time information, informs people of flood watches and warnings, helps them find Red Cross shelters and has a function to let others know that you are safe.

In conjunction with stream gauges — which can alert communities about impending flooding — located in all rivers and creeks that flow into the county and the city’s comprehensive flood plan, there’s reason to feel safer from potential natural disasters.

City and county officials should be commended for their ongoing efforts to improve plans and resources that can aid residents when emergencies occur or potentially disastrous weather conditions are brewing.

There’s no such thing as providing too much help when people’s lives are at stake.

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