78.6 F
Cruz Bay
Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeNewsLocal newsVITEMA: Commercial 911 Language Service Has Advantages Over Hiring Bilingual

VITEMA: Commercial 911 Language Service Has Advantages Over Hiring Bilingual

VITEMA Assistant Director Barbara Petersen testifying at Tuesday’s budget hearing. (Screen-capture from Legislature livestream)

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ 911 call centers, first put in place in 2009, have long sought more bilingual or multilingually proficient operators to help serve the territory’s large Spanish and smaller French Creole-speaking populations.

But V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency officials overseeing the 911 center told senators Tuesday that the paid translation service VITEMA hired to fill the gap has important, strong advantages, both for effective response and legal protection.

Concern over providing emergency assistance for residents with limited English has bubbled up several times in the past decade. In 2015, for instance, then-VITEMA Director Mona Barnes told senators that not all the operators were completely fluent in Spanish but are able to communicate during the course of any emergencies that may occur.

“They work together to make it happen,” Barnes said during a budget hearing in 2015. The following year, Barnes said they were still short on bilingual operators. “We have tried with all our might,” Barnes said.

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

But she said everyone hired goes go through the Department of Personnel, where they have to take and pass a test to be considered for hire.

“With all of our hirings, none of the persons who have passed the test are bilingual,” she said.

Tuesday, Sen. Carla Joseph raised the same questions at VITEMA’s budget hearing, and VITEMA officials said they had had two potential new bilingual applicants, but neither ended up taking the job.

But VITEMA Assistant Director Barbara Petersen assured senators the service the territory has contracted not only addresses the need but has advantages.

“VITEMA is very well prepared to deal with language issues at 911. We are now using a system called Language Line that most 911 centers throughout the United States use,” she said. “In our training and development we have learned it is more proficient to use Language Line because when you use interpreters who are not certified you run the risk of not good interpretation.”

She said most calls to 911 are recorded “and used for legal purposes.”

“Because we use Language Line that certifies us, that protects 911 and we are not discouraging people who are bilingual. But I will go so far as to say when we are using people who are bilingual, we are still using Language Line because it covers us and the government of the Virgin Islands.”

Tsunami Sirens
VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen said the agency is still working to reinstall 44 tsunami sirens destroyed in the 2017 hurricanes.

“Work has already begun on the island of St. Thomas with 12 of 19 sirens installed and is scheduled to conclude with the final 17 sirens on the island of St. Croix. After St. Thomas, seven sirens will be installed on St. John and one on Water Island,” Jaschen said.

“There have been a few delays since the start of tsunami siren repairs as the wooden poles are being replaced with steel poles and driven deeper in the ground than the wooden poles. The schedule has now been adjusted from completion in June to completion in August,” he said.

In January 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic got underway, Jaschen projected a September 2020 completion date.

The sirens they replace were installed from 2011 through 2017 with a $1 million federal grant. In 2014, NOAA declared the territory “tsunami ready” in part because of those sirens.

The 2017 storms destroyed them the same year they were completed.

The USVI is prone to seismic activity, as recent severe earthquakes in neighboring Puerto Rico highlight.

In 1867, a major tsunami killed about 30 people in what was then the Danish West Indies. But they can be much worse. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed almost 230,000 people in 11 countries.

VITEMA has 103 employees, 44 of whom work at the 911 call center.

VITEMA’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget request is $15.2 million, with $6.5 million from the V.I. government’s General Fund, $1.3 million from the Emergency Services Fund collected on phone bills, and $7.4 million in federal funds.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.





Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
18 hours ago
Virgin Islands Source

Juju & Cece’s Lemonades and Treats is hosting a "Freco and Lemonade" event today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cultured Naturals Body Care located on Company Street in Christiansted, St. Croix.

The business, Juju & Cece’s Lemonades, evolved from a summer project put together by 4-year-old Juliett Reid-Ventura and 3-year-old Gracie Reid-Ventura. #visource #usvi #supportlocalbusiness
... See MoreSee Less

Juju & Cece’s Lemonades and Treats is hosting a Freco and Lemonade event today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cultured Naturals Body Care  located on Company Street in Christiansted, St. Croix. 

The business, Juju & Cece’s Lemonades, evolved from a summer project put together by 4-year-old Juliett Reid-Ventura and 3-year-old Gracie Reid-Ventura. #visource #usvi #supportlocalbusiness

Comment on Facebook

Cute as a button. Darling little princess. Please protect them

Make sure they Mask 😷 up.

Loving and trusting someone is such a risk and i don't wish any woman to be in the same shoes as i was sometime back when I caught my husband red-handed with my own best friend in our own bed. I couldn't believe it when I saw it and my heart started beating so fast and felt like my body is shaking then I ran straight to my elder sister's house. I cried so much and my sister left me to cry and told me it would help ease the pain I was feeling. Then she sat me down and asked me if I still love my husband and I told her yes of course, and she told me that we all learn and grow through mistakes and no one is perfect and told me that if I wanted my man back I should fight for him and never trust friends again.My sister told me to contact profisma+27783320386 who had helped her husband with financial issues and told me he will help me bring my man back. It took me weeks to think about it because we come from a strong religious background but things worsened because I could not even concentrate at work and i got fired, and after that, i remembered what my sister had told me about consulting with him. That's when I contacted him and told everything, he listened, and told me that he will solve all my problems in 48 hrs. Since it was my first time doing this, i could not believe his words just like that but i had to wait until the time he had promised. I was asked to buy materials to help me which I did, we begun the prayer and results were delivered in three days. My husband called me and asked me where I was, and he came straight to me and confessed how my best friend seduced him, and he was sorry to fall into her trap and showed me all the messages my best friend was sending to him and promised never to see her again and promised to love me and only me. That evening he took me to a romantic dinner, Since prophet isma helped me, I got a better paying job than the previous one, my husband is back to the old man I used to know and he loves me so much and does everything to see that am happy. Thank you so much prophet, your spells indeed work. If you're going through struggles, you can text him on WhatsApp +27783320386 or call him

Load more
Print Friendly, PDF & Email