Cover of FIRE 20/20's "National Multicultural Community Fire Prevention Study" report
A recent study conducted by the nonprofit FIRE 20/20 quantifies the growing diversity in the U.S. and its impact on fire-prevention efforts in urban, suburban and rural fire departments.
The "National Multicultural Community Fire Prevention Study" is based on responses from 2,474 career, combination and volunteer fire departments from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as from 29 state fire marshal offices.
“What we found was everyone is dealing with growing diversity … even now with media saying diversity carried the election for Obama,” Executive Director Larry Sagen said. “That confirmed what we had found about the influence of diverse communities but tied it to fire prevention.”
The study captured different multicultural and high-risk populations served by departments; challenges fire departments experience in providing prevention services to multicultural and high-risk communities; and the effect of fire prevention and community risk-reduction in multicultural and high-risk communities.
Some major challenges to fire prevention based on respondents input included language barriers (62.2%); the community’s lack of basic life-safety and fire-prevention knowledge (50.4%) as well as about fire department services (48.1%); and fire departments not understanding cultural practices and their impacts on service delivery (24.8%).
“We really are not that prepared in the fire service,” Sagen said. “We don’t speak the languages; we don’t understand a lot of cultures. In addition, immigrant and refugees communities are afraid of those in uniform and don’t really know what fire departments do.”
Respondents reported that their department needed additional knowledge, resources and support to increase fire prevention (49.6%) and fire department services (45.2%), to improve multilingual skills (44.4%) and to implement programs (43.3%).
“This continues to make a value proposition for why fire departments need to be more inclusive and diverse,” Sagen said.
FIRE 20/20 developed the study with the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the International Fire Marshals Association, Vision 20/20, the National Volunteer Fire Council and the 's Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS), which assisted by distributing and collecting information about fire-prevention challenges in multicultural communities.