Emergency Translators

Interpreters for emergency situations


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About the project Edit

The [French] Emergency Translator Service provides volunteer interpreters for visitors from abroad in France who find themselves in emergency situations such as in the case of an accident, illness, assault, a natural disaster or being taken into police custody. The service is meant to help these visitors understand the situation and provide them with the means to respond accordingly. Today, the Emergency Translator Service (ETS) has nearly 1000 active volunteers working in 110 languages, including brail and sign language. Firefighters, hospitals, police, civil protection, along with other associations working with foreign clients use the services of these volunteers to resolve these, sometimes dramatic, situations.

The ETS uses a circular organizational structure: when an organization needs an emergency translator, they call the association who then contacts an available volunteer. Sometimes, the call may be for a doctor who needs to know the medical history of a tourist who has suffered a heart attack, other times, it may be to come to the aid of foreign mountaineers caught in an avalanche (although they could have simply called emergency services), help drivers who have broken down on the highway or assist an organization working with asylum seekers. The Emergency Translation Service deploys linguistic emergency workers in a similar manner to organizations like the Red Cross.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Through their translation services, ETS has a direct impact on the lives of foreign persons who find themselves in emergency situations. The organization has a broad outlook; according to its mission statement, ETS France is the first step in the foundation of a volunteer linguistic service, similar to the French volunteer fire brigade. This would involve the formation of regional or departmental teams of people highly qualified in both foreign languages and victim support. Access to multi-lingual health professionals i.e., doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists, etc. would also be a considerable asset.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The approach taken by ETS has already begun spreading to other regions. This expansion is among the goals of the organization that states that the their action must extend beyond the borders of France, to the rest of Europe. The various humanitarian crises that the country has seen have presented, and continue to present, major challenges for regional associations. The linguistic workers of ETS can provide support to NGOs and other humanitarian aid organizations, particularly those belonging to the EU.

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