Differences without division

By The VFIS Team on August 26, 2021

Why diversity, inclusion and representation matter—and how your emergency service organization can make changes that make a difference.

Your community counts on your team to be there for them in their moments of need—and that level of trust isn’t something that should be taken for granted. Instead, the relationship your emergency service organization has with the public should be continually nurtured and transformed so that each person can have confidence that the strangers answering their 911 calls and showing up to their emergencies will respond without biases and unfair judgments—and with competency, patience, respect and dignity.

There’s a lot that goes into creating a workforce or membership that cultivates these types of healthy relationships—but a big part of it is having a team that represents the community through how they look, how they speak, their experiences and their background, combined with an individual understanding of how important diversity, inclusion and representation are to the success of your organization.

Differences should never be seen as something that divides us—but rather as something we can embrace to become better. But when it comes to diversity in emergency services—we have a long way to go.

A look into diversity in emergency service organizations:

  • According to a 2018 NFPA report, only 8% of all firefighters are female and data specific to career firefighters showed that only 8.4% are African-American or Black, 8% are Hispanic or Latino and 1.1% are Asian.
  • A 2019 study published by the Journal Prehospital Emergency Care states that while the proportion of females earning initial EMT certifications rose from 28% in 2008 to 35% in 2017 (which still underrepresents the female population)—only 5% of newly-certified EMTs and 3% of paramedics are African-American or Black and only 13% of EMTs and 10% of paramedics are Hispanic.
  • While Data USA reports that communication centers tend to have more representation than other agencies—with female dispatchers representing 55.3% of the workforce—there’s still room for improvement as almost 70% of dispatchers are White (Non-Hispanic).

If these numbers aren’t enough to inspire immediate action, also consider that builtin.com reports that groups previously seen as “minority” status will reach majority status by 2044, 43% of companies that have diverse boards also noticed higher profits and, 35% of racially and ethnically diverse companies are likely to
perform better.

How to improve diversity in your emergency service organization

First, recognize the value. Each person on your team brings a unique collection of life experiences and belief systems—and that means each of you processes every situation a bit differently. The same holds true for each person that calls on your organization to help them. So, the more that your team is able to understand different perspectives, the better you’ll be able to communicate and work together to help make your community a better, happier and safer place.

Next, recognize that it's going to take time, commitment—and a lot of listening. This includes welcoming new ideas from those with differentiating perspectives, cultures and lifestyles and educating yourself on their experiences, traditions and practices.

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

  • Check out VFIS’ new anti-bias seminar, Differences Without Division, a 2-hour instructor-led training that focuses on creating an awareness on workplace discrimination and better understanding the bias inside each of us. The session asks participants to consider what it is like to “walk in another person’s shoes” and explains the consequences associated with workplace discrimination and how bias influences individual action. You can contact our Education, Training & Consulting team at 800.233.1957 to schedule your program.
  • Browse hundreds of human resources, harassment and discrimination and diversity resources on ResponderHelp.com. Plus, when you register as a user on the site (it’s free!), you’ll get access to exclusive content including a new 150+ page sample personnel manual.
  • Listen to the Don’t Risk It! podcast episodes on sexual harassment
  • Take a VFIS University course at VFISu.com anytime, anywhere on employment practices, like Respectful Workplace.
  • Look into trusted resources and courses that promote racial justice to help your team increase your cultural competency, like those from the Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) which address diversity, societal disparities and health and mental health equity.

You make a difference each and every day—and your own experiences have led you to the calling of serving your community. And that community is ever-changing. That’s why it’s vital for emergency services personnel to have a deep understanding of the things that make us all different—and how we can utilize those differences to bring us all closer together.

Why is bring a board member risky?


The VFIS Team

VFIS is the largest provider of insurance, education and consulting services for fire departments, ambulance and rescue squads and 911 centers in North America, having pioneered the first tailored insurance package for this industry in 1969.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

Glatfelter does not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the results obtained by the use, adherence or implementation of the material contained in this publication. The implementation of the plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication is not a guarantee that you will achieve a certain desired result. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a professional advisor, architect or other expert prior to the implementation of plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication.

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