By Duane Dodwell
Many thoughts occured to me when asked what fire chiefs need to be mindful of now and in the future. But one word that continually stood out in my mind was "inclusion."
The catalyst for my entry into the fire service was the result of affirmative-action plans, consent decrees, and other legal issues that still plague the service today. These efforts obviously changed the face of the fire service "diversity"; however, they also left a trail of anger, resentment and other such emotions that have left an indelible mark.
But now as a result of legal action, fear, and failure to act, we have been moving backward to a more homogenous environment — especially at the highest levels of organizational leadership. We also have been failing to focus on "inclusion" of all as a means to move organizations forward.
Although the fire service is incorporating formal education, credentialing, and other forms of high level training into job or position requirements, we still fail at the basic level of ensuring that we have representation at the table where the "real" decisions are being made about how organizations can, should, and will move forward. It's all fine and well that we discuss the issue of inclusion; but if you don't act, your words are meaningless.
From my perspective, inclusion of people, thoughts, ideas, and concepts is the key to moving the profession forward; as one of my colleagues pointed out in a presentation recently, "if we don't change, we will die." It sounds a bit extreme, but failure to move forward will keep us in the past, and although we have had success in the past, we don't want our failures to exceed those successes.
So, as new and recycled fire chiefs want to be successful now and in the future, I think it is imperative that despite their political beliefs, they need to reflect back on what just happened in our presidential election — diversity and ethnicity are key factors in placing people in positions of power and authority, and inclusion is an important factor that cannot be overlooked.