Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) introduced legislation last month to provide grants to fire departments to upgrade facilities for women to their firehouses.
Often in firehouses, restrooms, showers and changing areas are built and planned with a single gender workforce in mind, reads H.R. 3752, the Fairness in Restrooms Existing in Stations (FIRE Stations) Act. Lawmakers say fire departments will often assign women only to stations with facilities for women, limiting their options for promotion and advancement.
In 2008, the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services (iWomen) published a landmark report after a survey calling for firehouses to adapt bunkrooms and bathrooms to accommodate women. Much of the information from the report, the National Report Card on Women in Firefighting, is noted in the FIRE Station Act.
The report came from the responses of 675 men and women at 114 fire departments across the United States. The survey found that women accounted for less than four percent of all firefighters and more than 50 percent of departments had no women. Forty-six percent of women surveyed reported problems with privacy.
The grant, which would be administered by the Department of Homeland Security, would provide funds, based on the need of the fire station, to upgrade restrooms, showers, and changing facilities. Fire stations would need to submit an application showing its “commitment to increasing the number of women firefighters” and affirm that no funds would be used to displace any personnel. Priority would be given to fire stations that have high-risk industries in their jurisdictions.
photo by UNC - CFC – USFK/flickr