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Fukuoka Pref. city fire dept. launches 7-language interpreting for emergency calls

In this screenshot from the Yukuhashi city fire department website, a graphic explaining the emergency interpreting service is seen. The figure at top left is the foreign caller, the "119" desk at right is the control center, and the woman in the headset at bottom is the Tokyo-based interpreter.

YUKUHASHI, Fukuoka -- The municipal fire department here launched a seven-language interpreting service for emergency calls in July, to better serve both foreign residents in and visitors to this southwestern Japan city.

The Yukuhashi city fire department has signed a contract with a Tokyo call center offering simultaneous interpreting for multiple languages. The fire department will be able to offer interpretation for calls in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Thai.

When the fire department's control center receives a call from a non-Japanese speaker, it will be able to patch in the Tokyo service simply by hitting an "interpreting" button. The interpreter and the control center staffer then communicate with the caller to obtain essential details, allowing for quicker responses to emergency situations.

The city's ambulances are also equipped with tablets with a translation app installed, so crews can communicate with foreign patients on-site

Yukuhashi had 708 foreign residents as of the end of July this year -- about a 60% increase from three years before, when there were 446 non-Japanese living in the city.

"I think we can respond in times that call for a quick reaction," said Sukehiko Oike, the 53-year-old head of the fire department's fire suppression section.

(Japanese original by Toshifumi Kawakami, Yukuhashi Resident Bureau)

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