Recent headlines from the film industry highlighted by the hashtag “#MeToo” is forcing professions across the country, including that of firefighters, to reflect on their culture and behavior.
It is imperative that firefighters take time to embrace the Human Dignity Statement developed and approved by the IAFC Board of Directors as a testament to how firefighters should treat each other.
The fire service faces many new challenges and as we strive to understand diversity, our attention has to shift from focusing on the extrinsic factors such as gender, race, age, religion, physical abilities and sexual orientation to looking at each individual and firefighter as whole; appreciating the added value to the team.
Fire service leaders agree that managing diversity effectively is challenging. We have laws in place to assist with those challenges - Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Equal Pay Act (1963), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA 1993) to name a few. However, we must remember what the IAFC has adopted:
“As an organization, we must take positive steps to ensure human dignity by avoiding any remaining vestiges of discrimination or unequal treatment including, but not limited to, a basis on race, color, spirituality, gender, age, national origin, ancestry, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, or any legally protected characteristic. To allow such discrimination or unequal treatment, whether active or passive, weakens our abilities to respond to our varied customer bases. “
Further, the IAFC strongly recommends:
“that all fire and emergency services organizations/agencies develop written policies and have procedures in place to support these position recommendations. Included in these policies should be a statement re-enforcing a zero-tolerance posture for acts of deliberate and/or intentional discrimination”.
Today, it is important to maintain a fire and emergency service where each of us are morally committed to ensuring equality of opportunity and inclusivity for every individual. We all assume a personal responsibility for assuring that our responsibility transcends throughout our fire service. We must practice inclusive behaviors and we must educate others regarding the benefits and wisdom of inclusive behaviors while carrying out our missions. The words we speak and write play a significant role in creating the reality of an inclusive work environment. Simply having a written statement isn’t enough – our actions toward a bias and an equal workforce should be active and evolving within our own work spaces and departments. As such, the IAFC also make the following statement:
“With an increasingly diverse workforce, the IAFC also recognizes the need for inclusive language in written fire department policies and communications, as well as in daily fire department verbal communications.”
The value of having gender-specific language will ensure that the fire service, both career and volunteer, continues to maintain its status as a profession available to all those who meets its requirements and challenges.
In closing, each and every one of us should be respecting our commitment to keep the fire service the honorable profession. Fire service leaders should practice zero-tolerance toward any act of aggression, discrimination and disrespect and a renewed promise to personally adopt this Human Dignity Statement. Let’s demonstrate our positive and professional leadership with the hashtag (#) #NotOnMyWatch.