CPR classes break language barriers, raise resuscitation rates

South King Fire and Rescue isn't letting language become a barrier to public safety.

The department has branched out recently, adding Spanish language CPR classes as well as fire safety and prevention classes to the calendar.

The goal is to someday sponsor classes taught in not just English and Spanish, but also Ukrainian and Korean.

In the past year, the department has taught three Spanish CPR classes, with the help of a volunteer who is fluent in Spanish. Classes usually have 10-15 students per class, which isn't too far behind the English CPR classes, which have around 25 students.

The effort to educate the community has paid off. Nationally, the resuscitation rates are below 10 percent when someone is in need of CPR, but in this area, it's about 43 percent, said community education officer Donna Conner.

"We've accomplished great things," Conner said.

But breaking the language barrier has included a few difficulties.

In the past, the department contacted leaders in each of those communities, but plans fell through or never fully got under way. In 2004-2005, the department received a grant to teach non-English speakers emergency preparedness. During that time, they were able to reach out and connect to most of the groups. SKFR is now looking to establish a more permanent program.

"We've made a lot of attempts in the past," community education officer Kendra Kay said. "They seem to fizzle out. This seems like it's got some foundations to stay in place."

Last week the department presented, in Spanish, a fire safety and prevention lesson for the Latino community at the Des Moines Senior Center. The session brought in about 35 people.

Conner, who has been spearheading the movement, hopes to one day hold two CPR classes a year for each of the languages.

Conner hopes to have a Korean CPR class start in the fall. She's made contact with some of the community members and is now looking for a translator to start. The eventual plan in any language program is to have someone fluent in the language who can teach the class, rather than have a translator.

Volunteers wanted

SKFR is looking for volunteers from the Russian/Ukrainian and Korean communities who would be interested in translating for classes.

For those that are interested in scheduling a Spanish speaking CPR class, call (253) 946-7203, which is the CPR line with options for either English or Spanish. Under the Spanish option, callers can leave a message.

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