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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Break down barriers to serve

A working knowledge of common languages other than English is essential to serving our communities

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel looks at how expanding our language capabilities expands our ability to serve our communities.

We know that we live in a global economy, in a nation that is becoming ever more culturally diverse.

While I expect there could be some debate about this story, as firefighters and emergency medical providers we must be able to help anyone and everyone who needs our services, regardless of any language barriers.

Given the constantly changing demographics of the United States, it's virtually impossible to maintain the capability in our departments to speak, read or write every language we might encounter. In my city there are more than 70 languages and dialects spoken in our public schools.

This program, like others around the country, starts to address the challenge by helping first responders learn one of the most common languages in the United States

While fluency may be difficult to achieve, a working knowledge of Spanish can be a real lifesaver in an emergency situation. A focused effort to provide language training can also be a great way to engage with the diverse communities in our jurisdictions.

Stay safe and keep learning!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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