Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DCFD - Part 1

Like many in the blogosphere, I’ve been following the DCFD saga for a while. I think it’s getting a little ridiculous now… and while both sides could be handling things better, management seems to be TRYING to piss off the IAFF members.

For those that haven’t seen it, there was this stunt this afternoon:

DC Firefighters Protest Chief's Schedule Proposal:

HT to Statter911

Yup. An estimated 100 folks in DCFD apparel made a scene and publically expressed their displeasure with their leader. Was it understandable? Heck yes. Was it right? No. The fire department is a paramilitary organization. As much as you dislike the officer, you have to respect the RANK, otherwise the whole system will start to fall apart.

Now on to the big issue: Uniforms.
As of the start of the year, the storied “DCFD” brand is gone. That change has been in the works for about 6 months… not a total surprise. In this memo Fox 5 has on their website: Chief Ellerbe says:
All permissible uniform accessories must have the “DC FIRE EMS” logo or be plain with no writing at all

Fair enough. So some guys turned their t-shirts/sweatshirts inside out, took patches off their outerwear, or bought plain blue/black coats. It sucks to have to go out and buy clothing because your boss tells you he doesn’t like the logo that was “in” last winter. But it’s life.

Fast forward 3 weeks. Now there has been another change:
"D.C. Fire and EMS views itself as a para-military organization and is striving to no longer be a homeland security risk by allowing firefighters to wear unmarked uniforms, a spokeswoman said.This latest change to the department's uniform" DCFD DC FEMS Spokesperson on ABC 7

The Chief’s answer in an earler interview was to say that the firefighter could always wear the “running coat” he or she is provided by the department. Yeah, that’s a BRILLIANT idea. Although turnout coats are well insulated, they are designed to keep one cool in a area of high heat… they can be awefully cold in the winter. Further – here’s a point the news media hasn’t even touched. Turnout gear is DIRTY. It gets exposed to a whole host of things, by nature. Many firehouses I’ve been in have areas like offices, the kitchen, lounge space, and the bunkrooms posted “No Turnout Gear Allowed.”

Further, wearing one’s PPE all the time is likely going to cause it to be exposed to even MORE things that can damage it over time – like light, heat, cold, and moisture. That’s not even counting the increased wear-and-tear because guys are forced to use a $700 coat instead of a $100 one. So why would a firefighter want to wear it? Further, when it’s time to replace the gear earlier than planned, that’s going to cost a CRAPLOAD of money. For more on the hazards of gear exposure:

Yes – I see the potential for allied agencies to have confusion spotting firefighters – but here’s a big clue. They usually come on a big red vehicle with lights and sirens and “DC Fire and EMS” on it. Oh, and they are the ones that look like they are there to help. Perhaps there is a better solution. Credential everyone, and make everyone wear their ID’s on any non-fire call. That way, everyone who really wants to can see official, department-issued ID.

On the flipside, I can definitely see it from the firefighters’ viewpoint. This is apparently the 5th uniform directive in a year. If you told me I couldn’t wear the last coat I bought with the (then) Departmental Logo on it… well, I’m going to go ahead and just buy something that’s blank. That way, I don’t need to worry the next time a uniform logo gets changed. My “uniform accessories” – hats, sweatshirts, coat will be plain navy blue. I bet they are cheaper, too… Go to the discount store, and you can probably get half a dozen plain sweatshirts for what you’ll pay for 1 new jobshirt.

Next time – Schedule.

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