New IFD recruits required to take Spanish classes

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Every second counts during a fire.

As firefighters attack a blaze, communication can be the difference between life and death, especially when they face a language barrier when finding out if people are still trapped in a house or injured.

“Those are the types of situations where we need to be able to have at least a basic knowledge of what they’re saying,” said Indianapolis Fire Department Captain Rita Burris.  “Where do you hurt?  Is anyone still inside the residence, what happened?”

So now, for the first time ever, the new Indianapolis fire department recruit class will be required to pass a Spanish language curriculum during 20 weeks of intense training.

“You know the Hispanic population in the city has grown exponentially in the last several years,” Captain Burris said.  “More often than not ,we are getting calls from the Hispanic population in times of crisis.”

Hispanic business and community leaders say it’s about time. Not only will this program save lives, it will also break down barriers.

“That’s going to be a lot better,” said Marina Robleno, who is the owner of the La Posada restaurant on the west side.

She said this program will give her and other people in the community a little more peace of mind.

“That’s a pretty good idea,” said Robleno.  “And that’s going to be so helpful to Hispanics that don’t speak English. That’s going to be more helpful and faster service. They can help more efficiently.”

The President of the Indiana Latino Institute said  it will make the city safer and instill a new level of trust in the Hispanic community.

“It breaks barriers because you understand what they are saying; also you are breaking cultural barriers,” said Marlene Dotson.

The first recruit class to be required to pass the new Spanish curriculum starts in May.

“I just think it’s a win for everybody and it’s something I firmly believe that once this program gets off the ground and they see the success we make here in the city with it, it is something other departments will follow,” said Captain Burris.

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