Fire department officer to connect with Hispanics - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Fire department officer to connect with Hispanics

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Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2004 9:47 am | Updated: 5:52 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

December 23, 2004

Whenever something big would happen in Chandler and the Spanish-speaking media appeared, Chandler fire Battalion Chief Dan Couch didn’t know what to do.

"I only speak enough Spanish to order a taco and two enchiladas, ask where the bathroom is and ask what time it is — and that’s not good enough," said Couch, who acts as the department’s spokesman. "The other thing is we don’t know how much of our education and prevention message is getting to the Spanish-speaking community, and Chandler has a large Hispanic population."

To cover the gap, Capt. Jason White has been appointed as the department’s first Spanish-speaking public information officer.

White, who has been with the department since 1997,

became fluent during a twoyear religious mission to the Dominican Republic.

"It’s a different culture and to have that first-hand experience, I developed a love and respect for these people to the point I felt I was part of it myself," he said.

The most recent U.S. Census in 2000 showed Chandler’s population is 21 percent Hispanic.

"I think what this does is extend the customer service," said Nachie Marquez, the city’s director of public affairs. "And with the growth of the Spanish media, I think it’s extremely important that we have that."

White said being able to communicate to the Hispanic media and community will really help the department advance its goals.

"We’re able to target our messages to those folks on vaccinations, fire prevention, safety in the home," he said. "And each season brings a message, such as drowning prevention in the summer.

"This also let’s the community know what we’re doing," White said. "It enables us to reach out to them."

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