We are proud to be celebrating LGBT+ history month. To us, it’s about making sure everyone who works for us feels supported to be themselves. As well as ensuring everyone in Devon and Somerset knows we are here to help when you need us.
Chief Fire Officer, Lee Howell talks about the importance of inclusion and how embracing fresh ideas helps us all grow, develop and improve.
Lee explained: Many years ago, I was approached by a friend of a firefighter who wanted to ‘come out’ but who was concerned about how his watch would treat him. I need not have worried – the response from the firefighter’s watch was hugely supportive and difference was respected. This example really reinforced in my mind that firefighters work as a team and do value difference. We are ‘people focused’ and do genuinely care about the public we serve and our colleagues.
“Inclusion is about welcoming diverse views, perspectives, and people. As a Service, we still need, and want to do more in some areas to ensure that we welcome difference in views, gender identities, and sexual orientation and don’t expect or assume that colleagues need to ‘fit in’.
“Some of the best teams in the world actively seek difference in their employees as they design products and services that meet the needs of the wider society. Every generation thinks differently and as society changes around us, we need to be constantly changing too. We are recruiting firefighters, many of whom are younger than colleagues currently employed so we are already on a journey of bringing in new thinking that comes with new employees.
“At the same time though, I know that many colleagues (myself included), continue to seek to learn and consider new ways of working. Together we are bringing fresh ideas to help the organisation grow, develop, and improve. Our Executive Board is drawing a wide range of views together to assist us to make decisions that don’t disadvantage any group and proactively look to reduce any discrimination.
“As a Service we want to be the best we can be, and to do this, we need to accept and celebrate difference. Difference is good. It provides different thinking and different experiences to our own.”
For LGBT+ history month, Lee has made the commitment to make time to listen to LGBT+ colleagues’ experiences (positive and negative) as well as considering how he can support the aim of LGBT+ History Month to “eliminate prejudice by educating people”.
Lee has also challenged his fire service colleagues to do at least one thing that expands their experience or knowledge of the LGBT+ community. This might be committing to attend a Pride event or reading up on an LGBT+ subject. Working and thinking in this way is at the heart of our organisations’ values.