The Brussels fire brigade (SIAMU) is looking for five young people to serve as ambassadors for the brigade in an effort to raise awareness around fire safety and improve community relations.
The special unit of ambassadors is being set up as part of a larger transformation plan, which aims to tackle, among other things, criticism about a lack of diversity in the brigade.
“Promoting diversity in a corps or raising awareness of (unconscious) prejudices cannot be done by decree. This can only be done by working together, talking to each other a lot and carrying out projects,” State Secretary Pascal Smet, who is in charge of SIAMU, said in a statement.
“This concrete project will have more effect than a new communication campaign. We hope to strengthen the ties between the youth of Brussels and the firefighters. On the one hand, the young people will be able to inform their friends and family and raise their awareness. On the other hand, they will be able to share the experiences they have gained within the SIAMU. The creation of the new awareness-raising unit offers a unique opportunity in this respect.”
The programme is targeting people under the age of 30 with education credentials no higher than a secondary school degree. They must be residents of Brussels.
The five people accepted to the programme will undergo a thorough training, a guided internship and a first work experience.
If they pass these stages and feel comfortable within SIAMU, they can become an official fire prevention advisor, whose role includes strengthening the bond between the fire brigade and the people of Brussels.
“Fires now develop so quickly that they can be life-threatening after just three minutes. That is why the Brussels Fire Brigade is committed to raising awareness among the inhabitants of Brussels, because prevention is better than extinguishing them,” said Malika Abbad, Head of the Fire Safety Department at SIAMU.
SIAMU said that many young people in Brussels have unique expertise about their own home and living environments which can be used to help keep the city safe from fire.
“With this project, we want to show the impact they have in their neighbourhood and in their Brussels,” said Jamina Mertens, deputy coordinator for training.
In December 2020, a scathing report from Unia alleged that the Brussels fire brigade had a serious problem with racism and discrimination, and a lack of immigrant representation in its ranks.
SIAMU responded to those allegations with a statement of their own, pointing out, among other things, that standing laws require certain positions within the brigade be held by Belgian citizens.