1st Minute with First Responders: Challenges of Foreign Languages


We recently spoke with another First Responder about on-the-job situations. Here’s what they had to say:

What happens when paramedics first show up on a scene?

When we first show up we assess who’s hurt, how they’re hurt, and if a threat still exists for them or us. For example, if responding to a dog bite, is the dog still around? We continue to ask questions like how many are hurt, what’s the severity, what kind of medical help is needed, and what facility to bring them to.  We are communicating with them, and with fellow first responders.  There’s a constant demand for situational awareness.

What challenges do First Responders face?

They face a variety of challenges including the threat of injury from aggressive patients or hostile environments.  They also deal with different scopes of incidents, like the shootings and mass casualty events.  Also, communities are becoming more diverse and they encounter different languages even in rural areas.  A language barrier does exist and limits their ability to respond effectively and make decisions quickly.

What are the trends for EMS 911 to carry a personal smartphone or tablet during emergency response situations?

Nobody goes anywhere without a phone on these days.  90% of phones out there are smartphones.  EMS personnel have a phone tethered to their hip and use them frequently on-scene for like such things as:

      • Pill identification – there are online resources that are very helpful
      • If you know the name of the drug but you don’t know what it’s for… they’ll look up things like that on their phones

Some departments are trying to limit phones because people have obviously abused them like too much social media sharing of private information or pictures from the scene.

Overall, smartphones are here to stay and right now they are proving to be valuable assets for first responders.  A language translation app on a smartphone makes a lot of sense.   

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Blog by Christy Torres



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