Cultures & immigration beat: Multicultural Safety Fair tackles fire safety for Twin Cities immigrants

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2013 - 6:00 PM

 

On a routine home inspection, Rebecca Booker of the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department stopped to investigate a chirping noise.

It was the smoke detector. “How is it working?” she asked the homeowner, an immigrant from Somalia. “Great,” the woman replied, adding that the device had been beeping all year.

She had never had a smoke detector in Somalia so she didn’t know the sound meant the batteries were dying, said Booker, a fire and safety educator.

As more immigrants and refugees settle in the Twin Cities, the need for fire and safety education has increased, Booker said.

“Every single home I go into, there are gaps in information and those gaps put you at risk,” she said. “Now I’m going into a lot of homes of people who are immigrants and refugees, and the gaps are much wider.”

To help educate them, the fire department is holding its first Multicultural Safety Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 9 at Fire Station 3, 11920 Ulysses St., Blaine.

The free event will feature hands-on information on an array of topics, from alarms to bike helmets to weather emergencies to child car seats to water safety. Interpreters for several languages, including Russian, Arabic and Spanish, will be there.

It’s the third event organized by the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department to help new Americans. Last year, safety professionals from across Minnesota came to a multicultural summit and brainstormed ways to bridge the knowledge gap. At a second summit last fall, a panel of nine immigrants from different countries shared their insights.

“They told us, ‘We don’t learn from brochures, from articles or pamphlets. We learn from talking to one another,’ ” Booker recalled. “That was the one resounding thing that came out of that summit.”

Another sign of the times: The National Fire Academy recently began offering a course on reaching other cultures about fire safety. Said Booker: “America is just beginning to broach this issue, just as we are.”

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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