NEWS RELEASE: 9-1-1 Services Available in Multiple Languages

Vancouver — E-Comm, the 9-1-1 answer point for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast and Whistler/Howe Sound, has launched a public education campaign to reach out to non-English speaking residents and people with limited English skills to provide important safety tips and to remind them that the 9-1-1 emergency service can connect to interpreters in multiple languages.

“With our increasingly diverse population, the concern is that some people may not be aware that 9-1-1 is the number to call in an emergency situation or they feel that they can’t use 9-1-1 because they don’t speak English,” according to Jody Robertson, E-Comm’s Director of Corporate Communications.

E-Comm has access to a 24-hour service that provides interpretation in more than 170 languages. In most cases an interpreter can be on the line in less than one minute.

“Although interpretation service has been available for years, some people still assume that they must speak English to get help. 9-1-1 is a lifeline for everyone, no matter the language spoken.”

Those who have friends or family members who speak limited English are encouraged to instruct them to always dial 9-1-1 immediately in an emergency situation – as opposed to a family member or neighbour – and to teach them the English word for the language they do speak to help get an interpreter on the line faster. Knowing the words police, fire and ambulance is also helpful.

“People also shouldn’t be shy about trying their English – even if it’s limited,” adds Robertson. “Our call-takers are skilled listeners and even a few words, like help, sick, hurt, police, or fire and can help the call-taker get emergency response underway.

Radio ads have been produced in three languages – Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi – and will run on Chinese and South Asian stations in the month of March. Posters that inform limited English speakers about 9-1-1 and provide phonetic assistance for pronouncing the name of their language in English have been made available to community organizations that provide services to non-English speaking citizens.

Individuals and community organizations are encouraged to visit E-Comm’s Web site where they will find print materials, information and tips for using the 9-1-1 service in four languages.

The campaign is part of E-Comm’s ongoing public education efforts on 9-1-1 and will run through the month of March.

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For more information contact:

Jody Robertson
604-215-4956 (direct)


Tips for using 9-1-1

  • Dial 9-1-1 in emergency situations that require police, fire department or ambulance.
  • If you can’t speak English, knowing the name of your language in English can help get an interpreter on the line faster.
  • Call from a land line telephone if possible. Land lines, unlike cell phones and some internet-based phones, display your location to the 9-1-1 call-taker. If for some reason you can’t communicate, the 9-1-1 call-taker will dispatch police to your location.

9-1-1 Interpretation Service

  • In the third quarter of 2007 9-1-1 call-takers throughout southwest BC managed 796 interpreter-assisted calls in 30 different languages. The majority of those were for the three most common languages spoken, Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi, but the calls requiring interpretation also included less-common languages such as Amharic and Haitian Creole.
  • The average time to connect with an interpreter was about 30 seconds.
  • E-Comm’s language services are provided by Language Line Services, a global leader in telephone interpreting and language solutions. Language Line Services employs interpreters in more than 170 spoken languages who undergo rigorous training, including courses specific to interpreting for emergency first responders, to provide the most effective and efficient service possible. Language Line Services is currently used by 9-1-1 call centres throughout Canada and the United States.
  • Metro Vancouver has provided 9-1-1 interpretation service to residents through Language Line since 1992.
  • For a complete list of languages provided visit our Interpretation Services section.

About E-Comm

E-Comm is the regional 9-1-1 answer point for southwest British Columbia, managing more than 1.1 million calls each year.

E-Comm provides dispatch service for 23 police and fire departments throughout the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Whistler/Howe Sound.

E-Comm also manages the region’s interoperable radio system used by police, fire and ambulance.

For more information on E-Comm’s 9-1-1 and other services, visit