Jennifer Ortega

About Jennifer Ortega

Reporter and Fill-in Anchor on the weekends. Jennifer Ortega joins our team all the way from South Florida. She's worked for CBS 12 and Hola Tv in West Palm Beach. Although she's a long way from home, she's excited to be a part of the WCBI News Team.

Video: Vardaman Fire Department Learn Spanish

VARDAMAN, Miss. (WCBI) – According to the 2010 Census, Vardaman’s population is 35 percent Hispanic. It makes sense for first responders to have a working knowledge of Spanish.

Learning a new language can be a challenge, but Vardaman’s Fire Department might be onto something.

“We go to calls and we can’t communicate so we don’t know really what the problem is you know so I feel like it’s going to help,” said Fire Chief Michael Whitten.

It’s estimated that almost 40 percent of the calls to the fire department involve Spanish speaking victims. Spanish instructor Jettie Pettit says teaching the firemen Spanish will help them better serve their community.

“I feel really good about it because we are going to be living together inspirt of what a lot of people may or may not want, we’re all people and I think when they learn to interact with each other, any fears or prejudice or any conflict can be better resolved,” said Jettie Pettit, Catholic Charities Vardaman.

They’re learning medical language to communicate on the job and it’s all thanks to a little book and an eight week course.

“We’ll start this coming week on like how to learn to say questions of do you take any medications on a regular basis, are you a diabetic or let them know we’re going to take their blood pressure, not to be scared,” said Cathy Dauzat, Fire Department Secretary.

The Vardaman Board of Aldermen is picking up the tab for the course and workbooks. It’s been three weeks so far, Fire Chief Michael Whitten says progress is slow but steady.

“Fundamentals right now, the abc’s. Their’s is a little different from ours and they have different vowel sounds to them and everything so I mean it’s, you gotta put slur in the R’s and everything, it’s tricky but it’s coming a long,” added Chief Whitten.

The Fire Department hasn’t used Spanish on a call just yet, but they know the day is coming soon.