Efficiency in Crisis: How AI Transforms Emergency Language Translation

By Jeremy Banks, Sr. Product Manager, Carbyne

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In the realm of emergency response, time is of the essence. Every second counts when it comes to delivering aid and support to individuals in distress. However, in a diverse and multicultural society, language barriers can pose significant challenges for emergency services, especially at Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Fortunately, the integration of AI-powered live audio translation is revolutionizing emergency communication, transforming the way PSAPs handle multilingual calls and ensuring efficient and effective response.

Breaking Language Barriers with AI

One of the pivotal aspects of AI-powered live audio translation is its ability to automatically identify languages in real-time. This feature plays a vital role in ensuring that emergency calls, irrespective of the language spoken by the caller, can be swiftly understood and addressed. By instantly recognizing the language being spoken, these systems enable call-takers to rapidly capture what the caller is describing about their emergency and relay this information to responding units to ensure callers receive the response they deserve on scene.

Maximizing Situational Awareness

The integration of on-screen translation alongside the original caller audio enhances the situational awareness of call-takers. This dual-mode display empowers operators to not only hear the caller but also visualize the translated conversation in real-time. This augmented information equips responders with a comprehensive understanding of the situation, aiding in quicker decision-making and more effective response strategies.

Support for Multilingual Text-to-911

In addition to live audio translation, the inclusion of support for multilingual Text-to-911 further enhances accessibility for individuals who may face challenges in verbal communication. This feature ensures that individuals who are unable to speak or comprehend the local language can still reach out for emergency assistance, bridging yet another critical communication gap. Even though the lion’s share (~99%) of 9-1-1 requests are voice and Text-to-911 represents a minority (~1%) of calls for service to PSAPs, for those callers, multilingual Text-to-911 can be a lifeline during their hour of need.

Rapid Response: AI vs. Human Translators

The comparison between AI-driven translation and human translators is staggering in terms of response time. While human translators may take approximately 40 seconds to come online, AI-powered software can kick in within 8 seconds, resulting in an approximately 80% faster start to the translation process. The time saved through AI-powered translation systems can be a crucial factor in addressing emergencies promptly.

Addressing Extended Call Durations

Statistics reveal that while the average English 9-1-1 call lasts around 2 minutes, non-English 911 calls tend to last significantly longer, averaging between 7-9 minutes. These extended durations emphasize the critical need for efficient translation solutions. By expediting the translation process and facilitating smoother communication between the caller and the emergency services, AI-driven systems play a pivotal role in reducing call durations and ensuring that aid reaches those in need swiftly.

What PSAPs are Saying

Wendy Ervin, Former 9-1-1 Director at the Orleans Parish Communications District (OPCD) which handles emergency calls for New Orleans put it succinctly: “This new feature will allow OPCD call takers to work faster with our non-English speaking callers and provide efficient emergency services.” Other OPCD executives elaborated, saying “Once again, OPCD is leading the emergency communications industry with progressive and innovative practices that make our team and center more efficient and allow for us to speed up the delivery of emergency services.  Recent incidents made it clear that we as an industry needed to improve the experience for non-English speaking callers looking for help.  Even with the deployment of this innovative tool, we will remain focused on continuous process improvement for the entire communications ecosystem.”

The Crucial Role Ahead

As technology continues to advance, the integration of AI-powered live audio translation in PSAPs marks a significant stride towards inclusive emergency response systems. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that while these technologies offer immense benefits, they shouldn’t replace the need for human empathy and understanding in emergency situations. Instead, they should complement the skills of call-takers, enabling them to deliver faster and more effective aid while maintaining the human touch in critical situations.


In conclusion, the implementation of AI-powered live audio translation in PSAPs represents a monumental leap in ensuring equitable and efficient emergency response services. By bridging language barriers, expediting translation processes, and maximizing situational awareness, these technologies stand as a beacon of hope, promising timely assistance and support to individuals in their most vulnerable moments – ensuring every person counts.

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