Taking Emergency Calls: A Spotlight on 911 Interpreters

If you or a loved one has ever had a medical emergency, your first reaction was likely to dial 911. Now imagine you didn’t speak English. What would happen then? Ideally, the operator would quickly connect you with a 911 interpreter.


These specialized medical interpreters must remain calm in even the most stressful situations. In this blog post, we shine the spotlight on these sometimes-forgotten interpreters and the vital work they do.


What It Takes to Become a Boostlingo 911 Interpreter


First things first. Medical interpreters who join the Boostlingo Professional Interpreters Network (BPIN) are not employees, but are independent contractors. Yet that doesn’t mean we don’t require them to meet strict requirements before accepting emergency assignments.


Below is a partial list of our medical interpreter requirements:


  • A minimum of 60 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • A minimum of 3 years of medical interpreting experience.
  • Completion of required CEUs.
  • Evidence of current HIPAA compliance (must be updated every 2 years).


Given the sensitive nature of emergency calls, we also ask our interpreters to follow a strict code of ethics for the calling environment. It must comply with HIPAA regulations for security and privacy, i.e. no answering calls in public places or in a room where others are present.


How 911 Interpreting Works


When someone places an emergency call, it’s routed to the requested language and type. An interpreter will answer the call with the greeting, “Hello, my name is NAME and my ID number is NUMBER and I am your language interpreter. How may I help you?”


All interpreters who accept these calls are prepared to take them.


Meet Our BPIN Interpreters


The 911 interpreters who join our network have varied backgrounds, but all of them are well trained and meet requirements above. Here’s a brief introduction for just two of them:


Andrea Lane, a Portuguese-English interpreter based in San Diego has a degree in nutrition and previously worked in a hospital. Now, she not only interpreters 911 calls, but provides legal interpreting for government agencies and immigration.


Andres Wallace, a Spanish-English interpreter based in Costa Rica, studied translation before becoming a medical interpreter. Throughout his seven years of experience, he’s taken 911 calls due to domestic violence, stabbings, shootings, and motor vehicle accidents.



During our interview, he recalled a harrowing incident that involved a collision with a heavy motor vehicle. A passenger had fallen unconscious, and Andres had to walk the driver through removing the passenger, ensuring they were still breathing, and interpreting for the EMTs.


Both interpreters emphasized the importance of remaining calm and adhering to the code of ethics they’ve sworn to follow, regardless of the scenario.


Partnering with Boostlingo


As you can see, our 911 interpreters undergo a rigorous training process, and must sometimes interpret during life or death situations. Because of this, our BPIN interpreters are some of the best in the industry.


Want to learn more about how Boostlingo can assist your emergency call center? Contact us today!