Fire and Emergency Services

In recent years Fire and Emergency Services in the United States and United Kingdom have implemented a variety of initiatives to recruit and retain responders who reflect their increasingly diverse communities, in order to provide higher quality customer service.

Diversifying emergency service agencies demands an honest and critical examination of historical and current fire service culture. What aspects of our public image may still be unwelcoming to many skilled and motivated people?

Too often we recruit people of color, women, or LGBT responders, without addressing the relics of racism, sexism and homophobia that inhabit our organizations.

New recruits enter our departments with high expectations, but too often, they face daily prejudice or even open hostility, and are driven out. This “revolving door” wastes departmental time, energy and money in training and gear, creates an atmosphere of distrust, and sets up many recruits to fail.

Trust has been and continues to be the keystone of emergency service. Trust between responders – “I trust you to have my back.” Trust from our customer, Mrs. Smith – “I trust you to make this horrible day better.”

Unaddressed racism, sexism or homophobia / transphobia destroy trust, at every level.

jona olsson, Director of cultural bridges to justice and Chief of Latir Volunteer Fire Department, has been providing justice training designed specifically for fire and emergency service organizations in The U. S. and U. K. since 1999. (See jona’s fire service bio.)

Using YOUR objectives as a guide, she will work with you to design a training or keynote on any of the justice program topics that will be relevant and applicable to emergency personnel. For more information contact jona at or go to CONTACT US.

Women of the London Fire Brigade                                  Black & Ethnic Minority Section; Fire Brigades Union

All Program Topics

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jona with Frank Bailey
jona olsson visited the UK Fire Service in 2009 and fundamentally changed the attitudes of so many influential managers in the service, literally overnight. jona brought a new approach to dealing with Homophobia and Transphobia in the Service allowing many to ‘take stock’, and realise that they needed to change policies, practices and procedures. Over a 2 week period jona spoke to hundreds of Fire Service Personnel, including many Chief Fire Officers, FF’s both Straight and LGBT and Human Resource managers. She was an inspiration to all . Thanks jona, and come back soon.

-Stewart Brown, FBU UK

jona is very passionate about the subject; very knowledgeable and used humor appropriately to make class feel comfortable. She is so good you always want more and more time in session with her instructing.

– IAFF Human Relations Conference participants

During a workshop on internalised sexism I witnessed jona capture the attention of LFB women firefighters. The women had a wide range of experience, cultural background, and time in the service. Each woman left the session thoughtful, revitalised and with a greater awareness of a positive role they can play supporting each other.”

– Watch Manager Nicola Alcock, London Fire Brigade