Prince George’s Co. fire chief says diversity, equity and inclusion is an ‘invaluable gift’
March 3, 20231:08 pm
4 min read
Having a diverse workforce is a critical component of success for public services such as the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department in Maryland.
“When we have a more diverse department, I think we gain broader and fresher perspectives,” said Tiffany Green, the department’s chief. “It really is an invaluable gift.”
The concept of diversity, equity and inclusion is personal for Green, as she is the first woman ever to serve as fire chief in Prince George’s County.
It’s a heavy milestone, and Green said it comes with a certain responsibility that’s always on her mind.
“There is a sense of excitement to be the first, but there’s also pressure to make sure that I’m not the last,” said Green. “That’s why with every decision I make, my ultimate goal is to ensure that there are opportunities for other women, people of color and other underrepresented groups.”
According to Green, diversity ushers in new ideas and experiences, which has the ability to significantly enhance the department’s overall performance and effectiveness.
“This topic is so important to me,” Green said. “It is driving how we recruit, how we retain and how we look at the day-to-day interactions in the fire department.”
Matching a diverse community
The Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department can benefit from a wider range of ideas when it comes to handling major emergencies or simply interacting with members of the public.
It helps to ensure that all communities across the county are adequately served and that the fire department is able to respond to the needs of every resident.
“It can improve communication and ultimately help us deliver the best care,” Green explained.
When people from different backgrounds work together, they bring unique viewpoints to the table, leading to new and innovative solutions to problems.
That can be especially important for a fire department, which frequently has to deal with complex and challenging situations that may involve serious property damage, injuries or even death.
“When a firefighter responds to someone who is not like them, there may be miscommunication and misunderstanding,” Green explained. “Having a more diverse workforce increases the chances that someone responding may have a better grasp of the situation and can clear up some of those issues more quickly.”
Prince George’s County, in particular, has an exceptionally diverse population with a mix of different races, ethnicities and nationalities.
The county has a large population of immigrants from the Caribbean, West Africa and Central America.
While English is the most common language, many residents speak Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean and various African languages.
“The community should feel comfortable knowing that at some point, they’re going to see someone that looks like them,” said Green. “They can feel confident that their needs will be understood and addressed effectively.”
By having a workforce that is representative of the communities it serves, the county’s fire department is able to form bonds and build bridges with members of the public, which can be critical in emergency situations.
Finding diverse ‘cadets’
The Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department places a strong emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion when recruiting new members.
It partners with community organizations, such as churches and minority-focused groups, which can help the department reach a diverse pool of potential employees.
Members of the department attend career fairs and other public events, participating in face-to-face interactions that can be effective in attracting candidates who may not have considered a career in the fire service before.
“We make sure that our recruiters are diverse and look like the community we serve,” said Green. “We’ve seen a dramatic difference in the number of applicants because of these efforts.”
Social media can be a useful tool for reaching a more diverse audience.
By utilizing social media outlets, the department can connect with people across the county who may not be aware of job opportunities that are available.
The department also conducts outreach and education programs in schools and community centers to encourage young people to consider applying for a job in the future.
For example, the fire cadet program within the Prince George’s County public school system allows 11th and 12th graders to enroll in courses so they can get both classroom and practical experience.
It builds knowledge and skills that prepare students to further their education in colleges and universities or enter the career field directly.
“Hiring more of those cadets diversifies our department,” said Green. “Not only are we hiring from our county schools, but they are community members and they’re from underrepresented groups.”