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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) in the Fire and Rescue Service

The FIRST Center is leading important research and providing service related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the fire and rescue service. Our goal is to help fire departments and fire service organizations assess their climate for inculsion and their readiness to change regarding DEI issues. We conduct assessments through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. We provide resources helpful to creating a vision for DEI and enacting change.

The following definitions from the DEI Extension (2021) are fundamental to our approach:

"Diversity is defined as the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. Based on these differences, some populations have been and still remain underrepresented and marginalized in and among broader society."

"Equity includes the promotion of justice, impartiality, and fairness within procedures, processes, and the distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of disparate outcomes within our society."

"Inclusion can be defined as an outcome to ensure the diversity is actually welcomed. Inclusion outcomes are met when a person, institution, and program is truly inviting to all. Inclusion is the degree to which diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.

The FIRST Center proffers the following formula for consideration by the fire and rescue service:


It is not enough to have diversity. We can have everyone sitting around the kitchen table, but unless their voices are equally valued and encouraged to speak, we will not have an inclusive fire and rescue service.

The FIRST Center stands behind the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in their statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion:

"The IAFC urges the entire fire and emergency service to 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."

At the FIRST Center, we have made our own commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. DEI is one of the core competencies for our professional staff, students, and faculty.

The DEI FIRE Toolkit

The US fire and rescue service has expressed readiness to change, but is currently lacking critical resources to make the changes it envisions. To address this gap, FIRST is partnering with the Metro Chiefs through a FEMA AFG FP&S grant to develop "DEI FIRE"--a toolkit with education, assessment, and training materials to help the fire and rescue service achieve its vision of DEI.

Development of DEI Infrastructure

Through the creation of a DEI dictionary, a common language will emerge, enabling the fire service to have broad and well-informed discussions about DEI-related topics. The toolkit will include assessments of DEI receptivity in fire and rescue departments and fire service organizations using validated tools. In response to the data collected, best practices, trainings, and model policies for DEI will be created. This will support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry.

Various components of the Toolkit and DEI Infrastructure will appear here as they become available, so check back frequently for updates!

  1. DEI Dictionary (available now for download)
  2. DEI Mission Statements (in development)
  3. DEI Model Policies (in development)
  4. Cultural Competency Plans (in development)
  5. LGBTQ Resource Guide for EMS (available now for download)
  6. Self Size-Up and Cultural Humility Training (coming soon)
  7. DEI Climate Survey (in development)

Join Us

The FIRST Center is committed to making this journey with all interested organizations. If you are interested in lending your voice to what is needed and helping us chart the path forward, please share your thoughts by contacting FIRST Center Director, Dr. Jennifer Taylor (jat65@drexel.edu267-359-6046).