One firm tries to educate to prevent water deaths

A drowning in Punta Uva during el Dia de la Madre last week has generated a call for more safety education in communities. One firm, Emergency Care Costa Rica, teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid across the country.

“It was a sad traffic event that happened in Puerto Viejo. It’s a morbid opportunity to realize the need for more education in Costa Rica,” said Say León Gamboa, wilderness emergency medical technician.

According to León, a number of people drown every year in Costa Rica. Many are visitors who don’t know the currents or rip tides. Because there is no push for the average person to get certifications to help during emergency, most people have to wait until the Cruz Roja or police arrive for help. That may be too late.

“The prevention culture is still not there,” he said. “The Costa Ricans usually wait until something happens to do something. The sad thing is that these are someone’s family members getting hurt.”

Emergency Care Costa Rica came to the country in December 2001 to change this mindset.

“We realized that they had stopped making courses for communities. We said, that’s kind of silly because if you only train paramedics what are people going to do in the meantime?” asked León.

Since its inception, Emergency Care has trained people from large companies and adventure schools while issuing international certifications. Recently, 20 students from the Nicoya peninsula completed the course.

Teachers from the organization all have close to 30 years of experience teaching and practicing in the field, said León. The program is done through the U.S. National Safety Council in order to offer a standardized course. All the work, is geared toward communities, he added.

“We don’t train doctors. That’s what the schools do. What we try to do is bring classes to communities at low prices,” León said.

“We work under the idea that an educated community is a strong community, so we focus on community teaching since the Red Cross and the University of Costa Rica have other areas they cover.”

The program is designed to give students a lot of practice. Included in the course books are reference cards that can be carried on a person and a DVD.

“We make students apply and learn what they have to. We want them to be someone who can do something instead of waiting,” said León.

CPR certifications last two years and first aid lasts three years. However it is recommended that a person re-certify every year to ensure the knowledge stays fresh, León said.

Those that can’t undergo this training are recommended to know their area and recognize safety problems to prepare for the unexpected. Also, León advises these persons insist the Cruz Roja offers lessons to groups. It would be ideal if the local aid organizations put in place an education program, he said.

“What’s the point of fixing people if we don’t teach them. They are focusing a lot on fixing and not prevention,” he said.

“I’d love to hear that someone survived because someone else did something about it,” said León.

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