The relevance of diversity in your life as a Firefighter

Diversity is a word you’ll be hearing a lot throughout the firefighting application process, and a concept you’ll come to understand in your training and employment

But how, specifically, might issues relating to diversity affect you in your day-to-day life as a firefighter?
 

Languages

One of the most obvious cultural differences is language, and even if you speak another language there can be issues with incorrect pronunciation or commonly confused words.

This can cause huge problems in an emergency. It’s not something that’s only related to cultural differences either, elderly or disabled members of the public may also have difficulties with communication at times.

There’s also the problem leading on from this of people misunderstanding what the Fire Service actually does, and unintentionally ‘misusing’ the emergency callout number for unrelated issues or the wrong type of emergency.

The best thing to do when there are miscommunications is to stay calm and unflustered– though this can admittedly be difficult to do when you’re under pressure.

But, if it’s a genuine mistake then getting angry could just make the situation worse.
 

Cultural differences

Safety standards in different cultures might differ, and it’s very important in community outreach programs to emphasise the importance of things like multiple fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors to those who might not be familiar with them or used to them.

Again this can be a generational issue, for elderly members of the public who may be a little phobic of technology, or even question the need for it as the items weren’t around when they were younger!

In some cultures its normal to have larger families than is usual in the UK, or to have extended family members living together in the same property.

More people in the house means a greater risk both to themselves and to the fire service if an emergency does arise, and again explanations of why having fire alarms in every room or having a fire evacuation plan might be helpful here.
 

Religions and beliefs

There are also issues in houses with different religious backgrounds of the practice of celebrating religious festivals with the lighting of candles, and leaving these candles burning unattended for prolonged periods of time, even when the house is empty.

It could be almost impossible, and seen as disrespectful, to attempt to prevent people in this situation from adhering to their personal religious and cultural beliefs.

Again advice and information is the best option here, perhaps advising the family to place the candles in a safer position, and laying out the risks to themselves and others.

Varied customs

Cooking is another area where there are risks – methods traditional to different backgrounds can be of a higher fire risk.

The famously bad UK weather has caused families wishing to cook traditionally with charcoal to bring their equipment indoors, causing fatal results through Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
 

Norms and attitudes

Touching and personal space issues are also something to be careful of. Whereas a friendly hand on the arm or shoulder of a person may be thought of by one individual as normal, to another individual from certain religious or cultural backgrounds this contact may cause them to feel uncomfortable or in some cases offended.

This is especially true when interacting with women from these backgrounds, as there may be strict expectations of their behavior.

When doing a home safety check a male firefighter may even be refused access if a woman is home alone, or home without a male family or spousal presence.

The best advice is to research and learn about the diversities and differences in your local community so that you can understand and respect them.

Promote positive diversity wherever you go, and take part fully in public education, community outreach programs and events such as open days – take the opportunity to really get to know your community!

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FRS Team

Our team of experts have the many years of Fire Service experience and are up to date with the latest selection news.

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