February 20, 2024

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Inclusivity in the Fire Service

Gordon Graham
Category: Fire & Rescue

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in the fire service, and it’s about inclusivity.

Remember that everyone has unique skills and personality traits – firefighters AND the people we serve.

There are two open secrets in the fire service. The first is that the fire service remains a mostly white, heterosexual, male-dominated job. The second is that nearly every fire department is having difficulties with recruitment and retention.  

That begs the question: Are recruitment and retention problems correlated with a lack of diversity and inclusion? Most of us have heard or experienced how Black, women, and LGBTQ firefighters are treated differently. Too often, their firehouse lives are made a living hell. 

So, what can you do to help? First, don’t be a jerk. Yes, we all must “earn our bones,” but you don’t have to keep demanding individuals prove themselves long after they’ve done so.  

Second, remember that everyone has unique skills and personality traits – firefighters AND the people we serve. Inclusive departments incorporate more of these skills, which improves their ability to provide inclusive service to the community.  

Third, consider that inclusivity doesn’t only refer to race, gender, and sexual orientation. Other areas of diversity include education, personality types, age, skills, and life experiences, including military service. The list goes on and on. 

For example, do you have a vegan or vegetarian crew member? Someone who hails from another part of the country? Give them a chance to show off their culinary skills or a local recipe. Sharing a meal has long been known to break down barriers.  

Or consider spending 5 minutes each shift sharing book, television, or podcast recommendations. Such conversations can highlight diversity of interests while helping promote crew cohesion.  

Recruitment and retention difficulties cost fire departments a lot of money. Make sure your department’s traditions, behaviors, and practices aren’t part of what’s driving people out the door. 

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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