TYLER, Texas —
In emergency situations, every second counts. Each detail communicated from victims and witnesses to emergency responders is vital.
"Oftentimes with the city of Tyler, we're dealing with emergencies and people who are in critical need," Tyler City Manager Edward Broussard said.
However, many cities with a large Spanish-speaking population face the dilemma of a lack of communication in emergency situations.
The city places high value on employees who speak both English and Spanish. The issue goes beyond emergency personnel. It extends to those on the Municipal Court and utility workers.
"The importance of being able to have staff that can interpret and understand especially the Spanish language is critical for us," Broussard said. "We're providing our services."
During the fire department's Fire Safety Blitz Wednesday, firefighters encountered a number of Spanish-speaking residents. However, with bilingual firefighters like Capt. Hector Nunez, they were able to easily communicate with the residents.
Tyler Police Department Officer of Year April Molina is another one of Tyler's first responders recognized for her ability to communicate with Spanish-speaking residents. She is one of 16 bilingual police officers.
However, Chief Jimmy Toler says that number is far too low.
"They want to tell us something that's going on," Chief Toler explained. "Whether they are looking for a kid or some other type of resource, whether they've been harmed and we want to help them with it, but we can't find out and we can't break those barriers down. It makes it difficult."
Bilingual officers can receive up to $100 more per month than those who strictly speak English. City employees and firefighters, who speak both languages, can receive monetary stipends, as well.