25% of 9-1-1 interpretation requests in BC are in Punjabi

OCTOBER is Global Diversity Month and E-Comm, B.C.’s 9-1-1 emergency communications centre, wants to remind the public that they do not need to speak fluent English to get help in an emergency. In fact, E-Comm received 1,669 calls to 9-1-1 requiring help in 36 different languages in 2020 alone.

Of those calls32 per cent required interpretation services in Mandarin and 25 per cent required interpretation services in Punjabi. From Cantonese, Spanish, Farsi and Arabic to, Thai, Cambodian and Greek, the broad range of requests for interpretation illustrates the significant diversity of callers in British Columbia.

As British Columbia’s population grows increasingly diverse, E-Comm is asking those with non-English speaking friends or family members to help educate them on how to call 9-1-1.

Educating your non-English friends and family

  • Teach your non-English friends and family to learn the English word for the language they do speak (e.g., learn to say “Punjabi”) to help them access translation services faster
  • Encourage them to learn the words “police”, “fire” and “ambulance” and the name of their city (e.g., “Vancouver”) and home address in English
  • Encourage them not to be shy to try their English. Even a little English can be very helpful—and often all our call takers need to locate you and send help in an emergency
  • Explain the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately in an emergency situation (rather than waiting for a friend or neighbour to call on their behalf)