Starkville Fire Department is considering a language requirement

After not being able to communicate with hurt Spanish speakers last Friday, Starkville F.D. is considering adding a language requirement for some staff.

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The Starkville Fire Department is looking to add a language requirement for some of their employees.

The Starkville Fire Department responded to a construction accident last Friday and was immediately on the scene.

But despite their skill and teamwork, the department realized they had a communication challenge.

Since the incident, Starkville’s Fire Chief said he has recognized the need for a Spanish speaker on staff and is working on bridging that gap.

“Us communicating as a whole with him and seeing work calmed them down,” Starkville Police Officer Diego Soto said.

Last Friday afternoon, Starkville Fire and Starkville Police responded to a construction accident where one man was trapped under a lift. However, Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough said the equipment injuries weren’t the only thing his people were having trouble with.

“We got there, it was kind of chaotic. They were both speaking Spanish and for a few moments, we were lost because I don’t speak any Spanish, just a little bit. They were trying to speak with us. He was definitely in pain so trying to translate and communicate with them was quite difficult,” Chief Yarbrough said.

When no one could communicate with the victims, Starkville Police Officer Diego Soto was called to respond as a native Spanish speaker. His job was to calm the victims down.

“Just talking them through, being able to be there on the scene and communicating what he was feeling to the E.M.T.s, the E.M.T.s what they were telling him to do, while the firefighters were doing their job,” Officer Soto said.

Both Officer Soto and Chief Yarbrough agree that once the victims were able to communicate in their own language, first responders were able to better help in the situation.

“It actually helped the scene a whole lot better because he was able to communicate, talk back and forth, keep them calm while we worked on trying to get them out,” Chief Yarbrough said.

“We were able to talk to him, calm him down and I was telling him that listen, this is for your good and the techs for the E.M.T. were able to put another I.V. in,” Officer Soto said.

After the incident, Chief Yarbrough said he’s examining his staff and their ability to help possible victims no matter the language.

“The weekend, really, I took an opportunity to look at some different programs online to get our guys and girls up to a standard on speaking. At least so we can have some communication with them when we first come on the scene and maybe explain to them what we’re trying to do. Either our captains, battalion chiefs, the ones who are probably going to be on the scene, some of our guys in the sprint trucks who are going to be required to go through this class just to give us an opportunity to help people out,” Chief Yarbrough said.

Officer Soto said Police Chief Ballard is also looking to add more Spanish-speaking officers to help with the diverse Starkville community.

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