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Firm suggests quick translation for 911 calls

A Winnipeg-based company that offers a rapid translation service may be something Saskatchewan officials consider as the province becomes home to more and more people who do not speak English as their first language.

Translators can be ready in 30 seconds to two minutes

CBC's Dean Gutheil takes a closer look at the 911 system and language barriers. 1:54

A Winnipeg-based company that offers a rapid translation service may be something Saskatchewan officials consider as the province becomes home to more and more people who do not speak English as their first language.

Last week, a Regina woman who does not speak English ran to a neighbour's place to call 911 when a fire was discovered in her home.

Fire crews arrived within minutes of getting the call.

Maureen Mitchells operates a company called CanTalk and says the service can translate more than 100 languages as well as act quickly in an emergency situation.

"The primary languages are connected within 30 seconds, 90 per cent of the time," Mitchells explained to CBC News. "The secondary, which is the least frequently requested languages, within 120 seconds."

The province's 911 system is currently not using a translation service.

Saskatchewan's fire commissioner, Duane McKay, said the system is able to cope — even if there is a language barrier.

"The 911 system, remember, is to determine police, fire and EMS," McKay said. "That [determination] generally occurs within about 30 seconds. If we can't do that in that amount of time [and it] looks like there could be a problem with language, police will be sent regardless."

McKay also said the best course of action, when there is a fire in the home, is to get out of the building.

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