Inclusion Makes US Stronger

news story image

Good Morning Everyone,

The protests occurring around the nation (and the world) are highlighting the racial inequalities that continue to exist in our society. A basic founding principle of this country is that all people are created equal.

Fire Protection Engineers are dedicated to making sure that people’s lives are safe from fire. We do not provide different levels of fire safety for different segments of the population. Even so, per capita fire deaths in the U.S. are approximately 44% greater for African Americans than the national average (16.1 deaths per million vs. 11.2 deaths per million). Per capita fire deaths of African American children are more than twice those of the per capita deaths of all children in the U.S. (11.2 vs. 5.2 per million).

As Fire Protection Engineers, we should design buildings and provide communities with the same level of fire safety, expressing a uniform level of concern for human life, regardless of the color of their skin. Granted, many of these fatalities occur in the home, and it would be easy to deflect any responsibility by indicating that FPEs don't usually have a high level of involvement in the design and operation of residential buildings. That said, FPEs can conduct research on improved fire detection and safe use of refrigerants. FPEs can lobby or be active in standards committees for safer furnishings and residential sprinklers. FPEs can be active in volunteer efforts to provide in-home smoke alarms in all communities.

For our students, many of the items in the above paragraph are areas to be involved in once you enter the profession. Independent of your position at the university, all of us can adopt a commitment to eliminate racial inequalities in our personal spheres. Without the commitment to address the issue within our own proximity, being able to commit to making a difference in a larger space is not feasible. I encourage everyone in the Department to reflect on what you can do to change the U.S. experience to rid our society of racial inequality. Certainly, if you learn of, or you experience, any situations in the department of racial bias, please know that my door is always open for discussion. Action will be taken. Nicole Hollywood is also committed to being available to listen and provide support.

In solidarity,

James Milke
Professor and Chair
Department of Fire Protection Engineering
University of Maryland

Published June 11, 2020