By FireRescue1 staff
CHANTILLY, Va. — The IAFC’s Volunteer Workforce Solutions program on Monday released a report on U.S. volunteer and combination departments’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts to help improve their recruitment and retention efforts, particularly as they relate to groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in the fire-rescue service.
IAFC President Ken Stuebing said the report is “another important step on our journey to lead, educate and serve our members on this important topic,” adding that it uncovers important new information about DEI efforts and confirms other information.
Stuebing notes that fire and emergency service professionals can be proud of some of the study findings, including the fact that respondents believe in the value of various DEI initiatives: “Respondents told us that their departments are already working on a variety of DEI programs and services like education and training to help members learn more about diverse communities, advisory groups, mentorship programs, and recruitment efforts targeted for people from underrepresented groups.”
Other report findings highlight why there is still much work to be done:
- Many respondents do not believe their department’s DEI initiatives have been effective.
- More than half of the respondents have had personal experience with discrimination, bullying and/or hazing in their department.
- Respondents from traditionally underrepresented groups in the fire service reported a less positive experience at their departments.
- Common misperceptions about DEI are still prevalent in the fire service.
Stuebing spotlighted a particularly troubling myth: “Safety is one of our key concerns as fire and emergency service professionals, so debunking misconceptions that DEI initiatives may put the safety of fire-rescue professionals and their communities at risk is critical moving forward.”
The study also identifies actions departments can take to create and maintain diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments. Some of the recommended actions include the production of improved marketing materials, targeted recruitment efforts, social activities and mentoring programs.
“Our work is meaningful,” Stuebing said, “and I believe we should use our values and commitment to this profession to make improvements so that we accomplish our mission. This will help us to attract and retain diverse and skilled firefighter, paramedics and emergency service personnel as well as to improve our workplace cultures so that everyone can feel included and thrive in their roles. It’s doing the right thing and keeping each other safe. Simply put, being inclusive stands to benefit everyone, including the communities we serve. As the saying goes, ‘A tide raises all boats.’”
Stuebing added a call to action: “I urge leaders in our industry to read and share this report, implement the recommendations and become ‘active advocates’ for the changes that are needed to ensure the continuity of volunteer and combination fire departments that are both inclusive and innovative.”
Stuebing also noted that while the study was conducted in the U.S., with funding from the FEMA Safer grant, he believes the results reflect international trends and could benefit all fire and emergency services in the U.S., Canada and beyond.