All depends on the dept and structure. If you roll one man per engine like my combination dept then you generally get dressed on scene. You might put your pants on before you roll depending. On my volunteer dept it really depends on the call. A wildfire call not many people will grab gear. Usually the few that are going to be working the hose lines will have bunker pants, gloves, and a helmet on and the coat in the cab. On any other call we all dress before we roll. That is just the way we do it here.
I have developed a policy to cover our operations. Basically it makes very little sense to arrive on the scene of a fire unpreppared to do your job. Responding from station requires PPE including pants and coat, and belted in. Helmets are not to be worn while apparatus is in motion. The only exception is apparatus driver. If coat and or pants inhibit the safe operation of the vehicle the driver has the option of donning PPE upon arrival, but bunker pants are considered as the minimum.
Upon arrival the SCBA can be donned prior to exiting the cab. If crews are out of quarters, or in transit and receive an emergency response, the apparatus is to pull over in a safe location, and members will then don PPE, then continue the response.
The last thing the public wants to see is an unpreparred crew arriving, wasting time. It makes little sense to arrive in minutes to prove a quick response time only to have unpreparred firefighters take another two minutes to get ready. This can lead to short cuts.
There are a few occassions when personnel should dress on the scene.
1. When the apparatus is responding from the street. Personnel doing inspections, training, returning from another call or any other authorized activity and call comes in. Respond to call and get dressed on the scene rather than stopping and allowing personnel to get dressed and then responding.
2. When temperatures are high. Having personnel dressed in firefighting gear during response may zap some of the energy needed to fight the fire. It should not take any longer to travel first and then get dressed then getting dressed in the station and then responding
Actually, it depends on what kind of response is involved.
If it's a medical, you don't need to gear up with anything more than exam gloves most of the time, and you can put them on after exiting the rig.
If it's a fire, it's generally a good idea to gear up prior to the rig moving. The 2nd leading cause of firefighter deaths is apparatus accidents with seat belts not being worn.
If you want to hear why you should wear your seat belt, watch the Raleigh, NC/Seattle training video about Raleigh's ladder company accident. It's a well-spent 18 minutes.
If you're going to a wildfire, gearing up depends on department policy for TOG. Some departments don't wear TOG to wildfires. They'll issue Forestry gear or just have natural uniform fabrics with brush or extrication coats and USAR or brush helmets.
Going to a water rescue - stay out of the TOG.
Going to a structure fire - if you're not geared up prior to entering the rig, wait until you get on scene and have another member check you for the "no skin showing", ready-to-enter status.
I used to work a heavy rescue that ran 70% medical responses and was often cancelled in a very hot climate. We rarely wore our gear in the rig unless it was REALLY cold, or unless we were going to a probable working fire or extrication. We had the rig set up so that you had to remove your TOG to get to the primary tools. We could gear up in less than 60 seconds, so it didn't matter which end of the response got the dress-out.
As with most other things in the fire service, "it's situational".
I completely agree. Nothing worse than trying to dress with spectators and in a hurry. All thumbs then it seems. Looks unprofessional like you're not ready. No point getting there unprepared. Great policy.
I have to say that with our old truck a extended cab FL-80 while a nice truck made it hard to dress and then show up on scene. But with the new pierce stand up cab while unethical in todays world due to the seat belt situation makes it easier to dress on the way. And we dress while wearing our seatbelt not without as the "blackbox" requires it. But overall we dress prior to and also pack up prior to arriving on scene.
No matter what we dressed before we rolled. We never knew what type of call it was unless who answered the phone told us right off. When we got the call from the home, we dressed at the scene unless we had to pick up another truck.