Trending Topics

Inclusivity in the fire service

Make sure your department’s traditions, behaviors and practices aren’t putting a damper on member retention or recruitment

Sponsored by

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.

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.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.