Fire Department Diversity and Inclusion Are Key to Reducing Risk

ARTICLE | Oct 10, 2013

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the fire service isn’t just about creating a better working environment. It’s about safety. A recent national multicultural study that focused on community risk reduction showed that firefighters and civilians are at greater risk when fire departments do not: speak the languages; have cultural knowledge; have established trust; and when they don’t proactively reach out to build relationships with the communities they serve.

In honor of National Diversity Month, ICMA’s Center for Public Safety Management invited Larry Sagen, executive director of Fire 20/20, to present a webinar on how fire departments can reduce risk, save lives, and save money by building a workforce based on inclusion and diversity.

“I would like to try to help you see some new ways to think about inclusion and diversity,” said Larry Sagen, executive director of Fire 20/20, a nonprofit organization that works with fire departments in multicultural and high-risk communities to increase the reach and effectiveness of diversity recruitment and retention, prevention, emergency response, and disaster planning and management. 

In his presentation, Sagen outlined the following tangible benefits that fire department leaders will realize when they address diversity and inclusion. A qualified, inclusive, diverse, and safety-conscious Fire/EMS department that respects and represents the multicultural communities it serves, enhances its ability to increase the reach and effectiveness of: safe and responsive emergency services; cost-effective fire prevention and community risk reduction; engaged disaster preparedness; efficient and inclusive emergency management; and successful diversity recruitment and a more inclusive department culture.

Diversity, he explained, does not equal inclusion. On the contrary, by fostering inclusion in the fire services, diversity recruitment will occur because of the strong connections that are made within the local, multicultural community.

This ICMA webinar is available here.

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