Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting, Leadership

National Study Identifies Growing Impact of Diversity on Fire Prevention

Our country’s growing diversity is impacting fire prevention efforts in urban, suburban and rural fire departments across the country.  These findings and recommendations are reported in the newly released National Multicultural Community Fire Prevention Study conducted by nonprofit FIRE 20/20.

The study is based on responses from 2,474 career, combination and volunteer fire departments from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and 29 State Fire Marshal offices. It validates FIRE 20/20’s 2006-2007 Multicultural Health and Safety Research Project Study (MSHRP) conducted in Seattle, Austin, Milwaukee and Calgary.  Findings from the MSHRP identified that language barriers, trust issues, multicultural knowledge gaps and lack of positive proactive relationships are key factors impacting firefighter and civilian safety in multicultural communities.

“The research data clearly articulates that our traditional fire prevention approaches are not effective in our multicultural communities,” said Jim Narva, Executive Director of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM).   “If we’re serious about increasing safety, we need to apply these findings to help us develop more meaningful and targeted messages and identify the best messengers to deliver those messages.”

The survey addressed three primary areas:

* Identification of different multicultural and high-risk populations served by departments.

* Challenges fire departments experience in providing prevention services to multicultural and high-risk communities.

* Specific needs that would improve fire prevention and community risk-reduction effectiveness in multicultural and high-risk communities.

“The FIRE 20/20 data gives us a national perspective on the growing challenges we’re facing providing effective prevention programs in multicultural communities,” said Steve Peavey, International Association of Fire Marshals First Vice President.  “The comprehensive report will be a valuable resource for strategic fire prevention planning in volunteer, combination and career departments.”

Departments reported the multicultural communities most often served included Hispanic (66.5%); African-American (56.9%); Disabled (55.5%); Homeless (31%); Native American (23.2%); Chinese (20.5%); South Asian (19%); Vietnamese (17.8%); Korean (17.5%), and Muslim (17.2%).

“The prevention issues in multicultural communities were reported less often by all volunteer departments than in career and combo departments,” said Larry Sagen, FIRE 20/20 Executive Director.

“But the data clearly showed that diversity and diversity-related fire prevention challenges are growing even in rural communities.”

The biggest challenges reported most often by departments included: Language barriers (62.2%); Community’s lack of knowledge about basic life safety and fire prevention (50.4%); Community’s lack of knowledge about fire department services (48.1%), and Fire departments not understanding cultural practices and how they impact service delivery (24.8%).

Respondents reported that they needed additional knowledge, resources and support in the following areas: Greater community knowledge about fire prevention (49.6%); Greater community knowledge of fire department services (45.2%); Multilingual skills (44.4%), and Additional resources to develop and implement programs (43.3%).

“Fire 20/20 has done some amazing work in linking the issues of a growing multicultural society in the U.S. and effective prevention programs,” said Jim Crawford, Project Manager of Vision 20/20. “This report is important reading to increase the understanding of these issues at the national, regional, state and local levels.  There is information in here for policy makers and the fire and life safety community at all levels.”