The Memphis Fire Department achieved a significant milestone in its history and nationally this month when it reached its first target of 25 percent of all firefighter/paramedics being black.
In the United States, blacks only make up 7.7 percent of all registered paramedics and in the State of Tennessee the number is even lower at 3.8 percent. Just a few short years ago, only 8 percent of the firefighter/paramedics in the Memphis Fire Department were black.
The Memphis Fire Department, which is an all advanced life support system, has over 375 front-line firefighter/paramedics of which 97 are African-American. Through a concerted effort of educating its own firefighters as paramedics since 2008, the Memphis Fire Department has successfully been able to diversify the paramedic workforce in Memphis where the community is 63.3 percent African-American according to 2010 data from the United States Census Bureau.
In noting the milestone, Fire Chief Alvin Benson said, “I am extremely proud of achieving this benchmark and I am proud of the staff for helping us to meet these goals. We will continue our efforts and strive for even a larger percentage in the years ahead.”
Gary Ludwig, Deputy Fire Chief for EMS noted, “We are stronger and better delivering emergency medical care as a fire department when we diversify our firefighter/paramedic workforce in a diverse community such as Memphis. I see the excellent medical care we deliver everyday and our firefighter/paramedics produce those results.”