Portland releases multicultural fire safety videos for immigrant populations

A unique collaboration of the Portland Fire Department, the Portland School Department and Saint Joseph's College has produced a unique video to help immigrant and refugee populations in the Portland area learn about fire safety and prevention.

Actually 12 versions of the video in 12 different languages each explain fire safety procedures to a particular ethnic group. According to John Beatty, the Portland Fire Department's safety educator who recognized the need for the videos and lead the effort to create them, "Some of the targeted populations are fearful of anyone wearing a uniform because of experiences in their native country. We are trying to help each group make an adjustment to life here in America, and fire safety is obviously of great importance."

Saint Joseph's communications professor John Hufstader filmed and edited the videos, substituting in new actors and languages, including Arabic, Cantonese, Dinka, English, French, Khmer, Nuer, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese. Communications professor Bill Yates scripted the text and narrated the English version of the video. Sheldon Gregoire, a senior communications major at Saint Joseph's who is a volunteer firefighter in Gorham, linked the fire department with the college initially.

The Office of Multilingual and Multicultural Affairs at the Portland School Department found families to act in the shoot, scheduled their appearances and translated the English script into native languages, both for voice-overs and subtitles.

The 15-minute video, called EDITH for "Exit Drills in the Home," is unique, according to Beatty. "No other fire department that I know of has attempted this, and educating high-risk populations about fire safety is a priority issue nationally," he says.

Beatty says the videos, also available on DVD, will be distributed locally through Portland public libraries and schools, Portland Housing Authority, Catholic Charities and other appropriate venues. And he plans to take the video to the National Fire Academy and national fire conferences to spread the word to other communities who may need to reach out to their newest residents.

December 8, 2003 Contact: Charmaine Daniels at (207) 893-7723 or e-mail cdaniels@sjcme.edu