Adapting to Change: Working with Gen-Z in Law Enforcement and Fire & EMS Departments

Once upon a time, in a small town, there was a Fire Chief who had been with the department for over thirty years. He had seen many changes in the department over the years, but one thing that always remained constant was the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who served alongside him.

Two new volunteers joined the department one day, and the Fire Chief was excited to have them on board. However, watching them do their duties, he noticed they were always on their phones. He couldn’t believe they were spending time on social media and playing games instead of learning the ropes and asking questions about becoming a better firefighter.

The Fire Chief was confident these two new members would not work out. In his mind, they needed to possess the right work ethic of previous new members who showed more initiative and asked questions about training and completing their probation requirements and truck training packets.

One day, another department member pulled the Fire Chief aside and explained that the two new members were very engaged and created a quiz of the training material on an app both were using on their phones while at the fire station. The other member showed the Chief the quiz and how the two members had gone above and beyond in their training.

The Fire Chief realized that times had changed since he was a probationary member and that technology had advanced. He also admitted that he needed to change his views and how he interacted with new members.

He learned that just because someone is on their phone doesn’t mean they aren’t learning or engaged. With the advancement of technology, we have to have an open mind about how new members interact and how they receive and process information.

In the end, the two new members became valuable members of the department, and the Fire Chief learned a valuable lesson about the importance of adapting to change and being open-minded.

My grandfather once said, “An unspoken expectation is just a thought.” We need to communicate our expectations clearly and be willing to adapt to new ways of doing things. We can create a more inclusive and effective workplace with an open mind and clear communication.

Here are five ways leaders can benefit from working with Gen-Z in public safety, law enforcement, and fire & EMS departments:

  1. Tech-savvy: Gen-Z has grown up in a digital age and is comfortable with technology. Leaders can benefit from their skills in using digital tools to improve operations, communication, and response times.
  2. Innovative: Gen-Z is known for its forward-thinking mindset and willingness to challenge traditional practices. Leaders can benefit from their fresh perspectives, bringing new ideas and approaches to public safety, law enforcement, and fire & EMS departments.
  3. Community-oriented: Gen-Z is socially conscious and committed to community involvement. Leaders can benefit from their passion for the community by engaging them in outreach programs, fostering partnerships with local organizations, and developing public safety initiatives that reflect the needs and concerns of the community.
  4. Diversity-focused: Gen-Z values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Leaders can benefit from their commitment to these values by actively promoting diversity and inclusivity in their departments, recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and creating a welcoming and supportive environment.
  5. Growth-oriented: Gen-Z is eager to learn and grow both personally and professionally. Leaders can benefit from their desire for growth by offering training and development programs, mentoring opportunities, and career advancement options that help Gen-Z members build their skills and advance their careers within public safety, law enforcement, and fire & EMS departments.

Working with Gen-Z can benefit public safety, law enforcement, and fire & EMS department leaders. Their natural tech-savvy abilities, creative mindset, community-focused spirit, commitment to diversity, and eagerness for growth make them valuable assets to any team. As you work with Gen-Z members, remember to provide them with the necessary support, guidance, and resources to help them succeed. Doing so will benefit your department and empower the next generation of leaders in public safety, law enforcement, and fire & EMS. So, let’s welcome Gen-Z’s unique perspectives and contributions and work together to create a safer and better future for all.

PS: The Fire Chief worked with the two new members to add more training packets to the app and have all members (old & new) use it.


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