June is Pride Month: recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ+ members in fire and rescue services

June 21, 2024

Pride Month and the importance of inclusion

June is nationally recognized as Pride Month, commemorating the struggles and progress of people who identify as LGBTQ+.

As reported by FEMA Office of Community and Faith Partnerships, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation estimates that 20 million adults in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

Pride Month offers an opportunity for fire services to acknowledge the positive impact LGBTQ+ members have on fire and rescue departments and to consider policies that ensure the safety of the entire community.

Creating an inclusive department for people of all backgrounds, family structures, and beliefs is important for both retention and recruitment.

It also ensures that fire departments serve all residents effectively, including those who are LGBTQ+.

For departments lacking inclusive policies or openly LGBTQ+ members, resources and information are available to help first responders.

Resources and policies for inclusive fire services

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships provide resources for first responders focusing on mitigation and recovery for all populations.

The U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy (NFA) serves as an example of how volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel can support the diverse fabric of the nation, including the LGBTQ+ population.

The NFA has a longstanding policy and statement respecting the human dignity of students and staff.

This policy is not just a document but is embedded in the daily activities of the NFA.

Lester Rich, NFA deputy superintendent, stated: “As a previous mentor once told me, at the end of the day, people are people, and just want to be treated like people.” T

his concept is central to the NFA’s dignity statement and serves as a benchmark for inclusion and belonging in the fire service.

Education and training on diversity and inclusion

One of the newer courses at the NFA is titled Fostering Belonging in the Fire and Emergency Services.

This course explores the concept of belonging within the fire and emergency services and examines diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to the mission, vision, and values of response agencies.

The course aims to ensure that everyone is served without discrimination or bias.

The pilot offering was well received, and the final version will be available on the NFA website in late summer 2024.

Example of fostering belonging in volunteer fire services

Another resource for the volunteer fire service is the documentary film Odd Hours, No Pay, Cool Hat.

Created in collaboration with John Deere, the National Volunteer Fire Council, Hold Fast Features, and Vignette, the film provides an inside look at America’s volunteer fire service and shows that everyone who wants to serve has a place.

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