DC Firefighters Upset Over Rebranding of Department; Traditional 'Golden Eagle' Removed as Part of Recomendation

Reprinted with Permission

WASHINGTON - When the fire department responds to a call, chances are the public doesn't think about what their uniforms say. But a small change to the official gear of D.C. Fire and EMS workers is creating some controversy in the ranks.

Gone is a "gold eagle" emblem instituted by former Chief Dennis Rubin.
(WTTG photo)


Out is the "DCFD" that's traditionally emblazoned the back of dark blue t-shirts in large white block letters. Now, the new acronym is "FEMS."

It's supposed to be rebranding to better incorporate EMS services into the department.

Union president Edward Smith says the word "FEMS" is not going over well.

"Some members are upset," he admits. "We haven't had a raise in five years, so everything is taken to heart. They're very sensitive right now.”

The department's logo and sleeve patch is changing too. Gone is a "gold eagle" emblem instituted by former Chief Dennis Rubin. It will be removed from all dress uniforms, firehouses, trucks, ambulances and cars that currently bear it, and will be replaced with a previous blue, yellow and red patch.

"I don't blame them for being upset because this is like a yo-yo going back and forth," says D.C. Council Member Phil Mendelson and chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

This "rebranding" of the department was a recommendation of the city's EMS Task Force after the David Rosenbaum lawsuit. A better way to integrate the role of emergency medical service providers after a disconnect in the response that may have led to the journalist's unnecessary death.

"It's important that everyone in the department recognize that they have both missions. Fire and EMS," says Mendelson. "And that's why it's important that the department advertise itself as the Fire and EMS Department."

Changing your corporate identity is delicate business, says Joe Farren, a senior vice president with PR firm Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

"A name is absolutely critical. It's what people identify with," he says.

And while publicly firefighters grumble about the cost of new shirts, hats, and jackets, which they pay out of pocket for, privately - they're more upset about a brand that says "FEMS,” which some might construe as less than flattering.

"I won't wear it!" said one sergeant who didn't want to be named.

He does have the option of wearing his dress uniform shirt instead.

"A patch is a logo, a patch is an image, a patch represents the team that you play for and if that changes to something you don't like or respect, that's a big deal," adds Farren.

If the goal is internal culture change, Farren says it needs to be handled with even more care, by bringing all stakeholders into the discussion. Otherwise, the merger of two divisions can become a dysfunctional mess.

"If I slip and fall on the ice, or if I knock over a candle and set my house on fire, I'm going to call 911. And I'm going to expect either the ambulance or the fire truck to arrive at my house. That's not going to change, but it sounds to me like they need to get this culture thing right, otherwise there is going to be an impact on how service is provided and taxpayers are going to notice," says Farren.

Some question, that during tight budget times, if it should be done right now. Mendelson said he did not know how much the decal change would cost.

Union president Smith said after the weekend's uproar, Chief Ellerbe did tell him the department should have discussed the matter with the union before sending down an edict.

There is now a 90-day reprieve before the policy takes effect. Smith hopes perhaps that time will be used to craft an acronym that's more acceptable to his members than "FEMS.”

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Nathan... you've never been to DC, have you? I have a friend at Engine 9.. he sees plenty of fire.

Heres a suggestion, take your touchy feely namby pamby jackwagon views and peddle them somewhere else...
I have a "Hookers and Hose" T-Shirt from DCFD Engine/Truck 9.

"It's important that everyone in the department recognize that they have both missions. Fire and EMS," says Mendelson. "And that's why it's important that the department advertise itself as the Fire and EMS Department."

No f**king s**t, do these idiots actually believe the people actually doing the jobs have one job and one job only? People don't need to look on their shirt to be reminded of what role they play. FEMS, give me a break, how moronic can one be? At least do FIRE EMS. Besides how many people are questioning the people who show up to help.....newsflash, not many. Most people only care you do show up, not what your shirt says.

We had a chief several years ago that required a collered shirt for any call, no t-shirts, unless you were working out. Well there was a call where the crew showed up, a couple guys in t-shirts, both a different style (one the dept T and the other a tribute T for a fallen FF) one in a polo, long sleeve, one in a short sleeve polo, and a couple in workshirts. One of the guys asked the pt if they even noticed the shirts and guess what, the pt didn't care.

Seems the only people who care about such stupid suggestions as FEMS are pretty clueless themselves.
How can management loose touch with reality. This reeks as the input of someone who has never stood on the line as a brother! Hang in there Capcity we're with you Bro.
if it was easier to get a career spot, i bet 3/4 of the dept would go somewhere else for a poor paycheck, at least they won't get mocked by the general public.
I find it kind of ironic that some of the people who most adamantly oppose any discussion of topics such as Helmet Color, POVs, and apparatus color are participating in this thread and aren't posting comments like, "The lettering on your shirt won't help you put out a fire," or "What your shirt says won't save your life," or "This is a place to talk about serious Firefighting topics, and talking about what your T-shirt says is a waste."

While I think the DCFD logo and T-shirts are a great topic for FFN Forums, I fail to see how it is any different than the myriad of topics where others talk about the things that make them proud of their departments and their service as Firefighters for which many of the "Elites" here on FFN shoot them down on a regular basis.

Perhaps next we'll talk about getting a "DCFD Forever" tattoo...

Just my two cents (aka...Just Sayin')

All I can say is, "Really?" This is what we're concerned with? This is right up there with congressional hearings on pro sports and steroid use.

First of all, this is not an issue of a logo or name. This is an issue of not consulting the membership with professional courtesy before altering anything that affects the members so much.

It doesn't matter if I think the logo is a silly topic that most should really care less about. What matters is the amount of "after the fact damage control" that the politicians are exhibiting without consulting the actual membership. Pretty dictator-like in the greatest democracy on the planet, huh?
There are so many other issues that DCFD has to fight.
"First of all, this is not an issue of a logo or name. This is an issue of not consulting the membership with professional courtesy before altering anything that affects the members so much."

As dumb an acronym as I think FEMS is, the Fire Department, the City and even Congress (because it is D.C.) have every right to change the uniform, logo and name of the department without consulting its employees. When you're a paid Firefighter, you're an employee not a member.

So, as a visitor to D.C. and as a former resident of the area, I thinks it is dumb to have FEMS on the backs of duty T-Shirts, but I also know that as professionals, you voice your objection, and then you drive on with your job. Ask any Soldier about the hated black beret.

"Pretty dictator-like in the greatest democracy on the planet, huh?"

Democracy doesn't apply when an employer makes a uniform change, logo change or other change in how it does business. Do the employees of DCFEMSD vote on other aspects of how the department is run? I doubt it.

I'm sure the City will come back with a heart-felt "duly noted" to the rank and file employees, and make the switch to FEMS in 90 days as planned.

I'm not even assigned to 9 Engine or 9 Truck and I even have that shirt. It's awesome! haha U Street Corridor where they are located used to be a rough area full of hookers and drugs as recent as the 90s. Now it's one of the bigger nightlife districts and very expensive.
How can you not agree with DC firefighters? They are put in the National spotlight for every political event in the DC area. Personally I think the name is unprofessional. How long til someone wants to make an issue out of it claiming some kind of loose tie to some BS. I know I'd love to have the fire dept come to my house with "FEMS" on the back of their shirts. I'd be like WTF??? They might as well goto work with a find 'em hot and leave 'em wet shirt....

How about:
Fire and Unified Critical Care and Emergency Responders - FUCCER's
Division of Incident Mitigation With Integrated Technical Specialists
or better:
Developing Incident Mitigation Within Integrated Technical Emergencies Division of
Fire and Unified Critical Care and Emergency Responders
I do agree with the DC Firefighters, I wouldn't want that on my shirt either. I don't think it's unprofessional, just a poor acronym. The Federal Government loves acronyms (FBI, ATF, IRS to name a few) and that seems to have rubbed off on some in the D.C. Government. I just hope the thugs and criminals don't think FEMS is some new Law Enforcement agency and start shooting FFs on EMS calls. That is what the D.C. Firefighters need to point out, not that it's somehow embarrassing, but that it could be putting Firefighters' lives at risk by putting FEMS on T-Shirts.

I'm just saying this conversation has nothing to do with doing your job, as some have a history of pointing out about other threads.


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