Coffee Break Bulletin

Want to increase your cultural competence in risk reduction?

Posted: Aug. 22, 2017

This Coffee Break Bulletin describes how the National Fire Academy course “Cultural Competence in Risk Reduction” can help fire and rescue personnel connect with diverse groups.

Native American grandmother and granddaughter

As our communities become more diverse, the National Fire Academy (NFA) recognizes the importance of offering courses to improve cultural and linguistic interaction with those we serve. The NFA offers a six-day course (on- or off-campus), “Cultural Competence in Risk Reduction,” to help connect fire and rescue personnel with diverse groups. The course goal is to improve cultural competence in the application of risk-reduction strategies.

The building blocks of culture

The course applies NFA’s risk-reduction model adapted to cultural needs. The course is not about any one particular culture, but about the building blocks of culture which correspond to four broad categories of human experience.1

These four building blocks of culture are:

  1. Concept of self: Individualist and collectivist.
  2. Personal versus societal responsibility: Universalist and particularistic.
  3. Concept of time: Monochronic and polychronic.
  4. Locus of control: Internal and external.

The building blocks are presented in realistic prevention scenarios, using various cultural and linguistic settings. You will learn to select interventions based on cultural and linguistic factors, including some guidelines on culturally appropriate translation methods. You will also learn how to communicate through an interpreter.

When individuals come from cultures with dramatically different building blocks that are substantively different in one or more areas, miscommunication, frustration and mistakes are likely to occur. This does not mean that cultures with dramatically different building blocks can’t live and work together. It does mean that intuition won’t be very helpful and will require some effort and patience.

Who should take this course?

If you have responsibility for interfacing with your community to reduce risks, think about taking this course. The class is open to those who work in community risk reduction, typically including fire and life safety educators, code enforcers, arson investigators, inspectors, fire marshals and others whose work requires community outreach in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

You can also be considered if you are a fire chief, chief fire officer, company officer, or even a firefighter who has prevention responsibility as a secondary or even volunteer status.

How to apply

Only one offering of this course is scheduled for fiscal year 2018 so it’s important that you apply during our next application period which runs from Oct. 15 – Dec. 15, 2017. Read the course description to learn more about this course and to download an application.

1 Storti, C. (1999). Figuring Foreigners Out: A Practical Guide. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Explore more Coffee Break Bulletins:

Subscribe to our email list

Keep up with Coffee Break Bulletins by having them delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe