We all must be better
BY JIM PAULEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NFPA
Earlier this month, we at NFPA, like so many individuals and organizations, were outraged at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It was despicable. Racism and inequality in any form is unacceptable.
As I write this message, I know that I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is this - NFPA has been devoted to fire and life safety for everyone for more than a century. What I also know is that if we don’t start from the idea of believing that we are all equal as human beings and it is our actions or inactions that create disparity and divisions – then all of the ideas, programs, approaches and solutions that anyone can come up with won’t be successful.
All of our work at NFPA is aimed at serving the full global community and making a difference in the world to keep people and property safe from fire, electrical and related hazards. We have long been about bringing varied groups together and setting the table for fruitful discussions.
One of the initiatives NFPA started a few years ago is our Responder Forum. It was a forum designed to bring together up and coming thinkers and leaders from the fire service. It started out talking about the classic areas of the fire service like data, technology, equipment, etc. But more recently has tackled the issues of racism, gender and bullying within the ranks. These are difficult issues and the participants have valued the opportunity to be open and honest with their peers and see themselves as catalysts for change. We are continuing those discussions as we bring in new classes of participants.
Another area was the work of our Urban Fire Forum to assist specific communities confronted by civil unrest and share those lessons on how to carry out the duties of the fire service in an effective and respectful way during these types of tumultuous events.
But there is more to do.
My objective is to do all that I can to make sure that everyone who works for NFPA or who interacts with NFPA at any time feels safe, supported, and respected in the ways we all expect and deserve.
Over the last few months the pandemic has required NFPA staff to work from home and I have shared weekly video announcements to keep everyone informed about the state of our organization. I conclude these videos with the same sign-off each week: Be kind to one another. It’s a simple message that had one meaning when COVID-19 struck. But I believe it holds more significant value and importance as these troubled times became more disturbing. Truth be told, being kind can be a lot harder to practice than it sounds, but it is fundamental. Without the foundation of respect and decency for one another, there can be no real path forward.