Local News

Lack of Spanish Means Lapse in Emergency Service

Posted January 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— When people call 9-1-1 to report an emergency, they take for granted the person on the other end of the line will speak their language, but that's not always the case. While even most automatic teller machines are bilingual, some emergency service operations are not.

There is push on in Wilson County to make the Spanish language available on 9-1-1 lines. Dispatchers say more and more calls are coming in from people who speak only Spanish and Al Gaskill, of Director of Johnston County's 9-1-1 service says that makes helping people difficult.

Spanish speaking people, like Mariana Escamilla, are moving to North Carolina in increasing numbers. And she says they're putting down roots. She learned English as a child, but says many Mexican-Americans have no plans to learn fluent English.

Trino Zamora might be part of the answer. The Mexican born deputy speaks both English and Spanish fluently. He says that ability has already helped his department and the community he serves.

Gaskill says there aren't many bilingual public service workers around.

Emergency crews across the state understand it's a problem that's not going to go away soon.