Feb 22, 2012 3:01 AM by Ariel Wesler

Spanish emergency preparedness class graduates first group of instructors

A emergency preparedness program in Santa Maria graduated its first class of instructors ready to help educate the Hispanic community. The Listos program started in Santa Maria about a year ago and so far, around 200 people have completed the 12-hour course.

It's run by the Santa Maria Fire Department and is taught entirely in Spanish. Residents learn everything from how to use a fire extinguisher to basic first aid and disaster preparedness.

Each of the 10 graduates were presented with a plaque at Tuesday night's city council meeting commemorating their achievement. They all completed a 10 week Train-the-Trainer course, which goes beyond the regular Listos class and will allow them to lead the course themselves.

About 70 percent of the people who live in Santa Maria are Spanish-speaking and during an emergency, clear communication is critical.

"It's fantastic that we have these folks that have taken the training and taken additional training to become instructors and we know with a population of 70,000, that we need more than one instructor," said Gracie Huerta, the founder of Listos.

"We promise to be a support of the fire department and prepare the community to be Listos, [which means] "Ready," and to help wherever we are needed," said one of the graduating students.

Fire officials say by having neighbors teaching neighbors, the program will eventually become self-sufficient.

The program is unique to the Central and South coast, but the hope is to eventually implement it statewide.

Fire Chief Dan Orr says one of his ultimate goals is to teach an emergency preparedness class in Mixteco, a common Mesoamerican language among migrant workers.


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