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Community News: Mid-City

WESTLAKE : Tragic Fire Prompts Free Safety Seminar

September 05, 1993|JAKE DOHERTY

Usually when the American Red Cross shows up at Belmont High School's gym, it's to care for people uprooted by a tragedy such as the fatal May 3 fire at a Burlington Avenue apartment building.

But on a recent Saturday, volunteers from four local Red Cross chapters taught Spanish-speaking residents of Westlake and Pico-Union how to help themselves and their neighbors in an emergency.

"Luckily I've never been in a fire, but we all need to know what to do just in case," said Sylvia R. Duran, who was among the 75 people who attended the training sessions.

"I feel better prepared to help now."

The Red Cross organized the free fire safety and first-aid training for people who lack access to such classes because of language barriers or financial constraints, said Victoria Garcia, a Red Cross worker.

The impetus for the sessions came from the May fire at 330 S. Burlington Ave., which killed 10 people. Ricki Albert, a Red Cross volunteer from the Pomona chapter, said she felt compelled to do something after watching news accounts of the fire victims.

"I don't have a lot of money to give but I can teach rescue breathing," Albert said.

"Maybe if some people (at the scene of the fire) had the ability to do rescue breathing, it could have made a difference."

The training drew volunteers from American Red Cross chapters in Los Angeles, Pomona Valley, Rio Hondo and the San Gabriel Valley and support from several sponsors, including the Los Angeles Alliance for a Drug Free Community and the Pico-Union/ Westlake Health Cluster.

During the first segment, the participants--parents, grandparents, young adults and teen-agers--listened intently as Armando Nunez, a fire safety specialist with the Los Angeles Fire Department, talked about how fires get started and how to respond when they do.

"The No. 1 thing is to have a home-escape plan," Nunez said. "You have to know your building, know where the exits are and do drills during the day and at night."

Nunez also stressed the importance of properly storing flammable materials kept at home and checking fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers to make sure they work.

"What people learn here today can save lives in the future," Nunez said.

In the second segment, participants learned techniques to revive someone who is not breathing and first-aid tips to help people who are bleeding, burned, in shock or choking.

After practicing on a Red Cross mannequin, Maria C. Rodriguez, 19, said she was confident she could apply her training in an emergency.

"People think it won't happen to me or my family but it can happen to anyone," said Rodriguez, who wants to become a firefighter.

"It's good to be prepared."

Rodriguez also pleased Red Cross officials by signing up to train as a bilingual volunteer.

Volunteers who speak Korean, other Asian languages and Spanish are needed to provide emergency preparedness training in many communities, Garcia said.

Information on training sessions and volunteer opportunities: (213) 739-5262.

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