Firefighters Use Language Line To Break Down Barriers

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When firefighters arrive on a scene in Sioux Falls, flames might not be their only obstacle. With dozens of languages spoken in the area, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue trains for situations where language can become a barrier during an emergency. 

This apartment fire on Thursday at the Rolling Hills Townhomes in Sioux Falls put firefighters to the test. 

“So we had a lot of people coming out of there and as you can see yesterday, there was a language barrier with some of them,” Goodroad said. 

Division Chief Brad Goodroad says crews are trained to handle a variety of situations and breaking down language barriers to get people away from danger is one of them. 

“Dealing with emergencies so people can be kind of excited. So sometimes it’s kind of harder to calm them down when you really aren’t speaking their language. That’s what we try and do. We try to find somebody in the house that speaks English or use the line,” Goodroad said. 

The phone “line” he’s referring to is a direct line to a company called Language Line Solutions. Each fire engine is equipped with a card that has a phone number firefighters can call. 

“What we utilize in the fire department is we have a language line. The city of Sioux Falls is contracted with them. So we have a phone number that we can call. Then they figure out what the language is, they get an interpreter on the phone and we can work it out that way,” Goodroad said. 

While Spanish is a common language firefighters run into, Goodroad says you never know who may need help and that’s why it’s important to have an interpreter just a phone call away. 

“We have 100 different languages that are spoken in this city. It’s all of them. There’s a lot of different languages,” Goodroad said. 

Language Line boasts interpreters fluent in more than 240 languages. It’s website says it takes no longer than 35 seconds, on average, to connect with the right interpreter. 

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