UPDATE: Dispatchers Meeting Needs of Spanish-Only Residents

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - In an update to a story we brought you earlier this year, the need for Spanish-speaking emergency personnel is growing across the United States but in Region 8, officials are stepping up efforts to meet those needs.

For three days this week, dispatchers from around Arkansas and in Region 8 will take Spanish classes. They will be learning how to pronounce phrases used in dispatching aid as well as understanding things said to them.

The class concludes with an actual call from a Spanish-speaking person to test the dispatcher on if they can resolve the call.

Here is the original report:

JONESBORO (KAIT) -  With nearly 6 thousand Hispanics in Jonesboro many of whom speak little or no English dealing with the city on day to day can be hampered by the language barrier.

At city hall they've had no kind of formal training. What I found out was that when a Hispanic business owner comes in to get a permit or conduct business they usually bring enough people in with them so that someone in the group can act as interpreter.

However what about in an emergency situation...

Several 911 operators have been sent to school to learn Spanish for 911.

Jeff Pressley, 911 Director "They have brought this material back and now we are in the process of training other personnel in this area of our 911, emergency responders, police officers."

Using a guide that provides standard questions, words and pronunciation 911 workers are able to deal with emergency callers.

The police department is also addressing the language barrier in a couple of ways.

Chief Michael Yates, "We offer our officers, survival Spanish or Spanish for patrol officers. It's a limited course to help them get some familiarity with the Spanish language. And help them function on the street."

Chief Yates says they are also actively seeking bi-lingual officers for the department.

The J-P-D has placed a bi-lingual officer in a Hispanic neighborhood.

Officer Paul Turney learned Spanish as a paramedic in the navy and lives in North Jonesboro. He says it's working well.

"There's a lot less crime, people are going outside and enjoying themselves, kids are outside playing, not everybody is cooped up in their apartments not afraid to go out so it's made a big difference."

The city is trying to implement a dedicated phone line for emergencies that will automatically 3 way connect an interpreter to 9-1-1 and either fire, police, or ems.