More Spanish-speaking 911 dispatchers needed to keep pace with Latino population growth in Charlotte

- "This is Charlotte 911. Does anyone need police, fire, or medic?"

In the direst moments, we turn to those three numbers for help in a hurry.

"I get a lot of complaints saying, 'I called 911 and they hung up on me,'" said Danny Hernandez with CMPD.

Spanish-speakers who can't communicate in English have told police it's a struggle getting the help they need.

Currently, CMPD 911 has 116 operators. Only four of them speak Spanish. When they're not available, dispatchers have to use an off-site interpreter.

"They didn't hang up; they're on a delay until they get the other call center and then call them back. After that, they're also on a three-way conversation so that takes some time which can delay dispatching the units to where they're needed," said Hernandez.

To cut down on response times and confusion with non-English speakers, the department is hoping to get more qualified bi-lingual applicants.

"We're looking for anyone who can bring a skill set to help people. Speaking another language will enhance the division and the department and people when they call in," said Captain Bill Boger.

At the rate Charlotte's Latino population is growing, more and more emergency calls will be made in Spanish.

"Going on the official census from 2010 to 2012, they've seen a 22 percent growth rate. That's just an official count. Unofficially, I think it's more like 40-45 percent," said Hernandez.

Beyond the language barrier, CMPD says there's also a cultural difference they have to overcome as dispatchers.

Hernandez says Latinos are used to giving directions based on landmarks which don’t help 911 operators when they're looking for an address to send out crews.          

The department says out of 982-thousand calls last year, nearly 8-thousand required translator services.

The application period for dispatchers will open sometime in April. Applicants have to be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age, and pass several job-related tests.

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