Hey everyone, I am in need of some opinions about rules regarding professionalism. My department is volunteer. We train weekly and due to the appearances of some, have had to enforce a dress code. The basics are try to have on clean jeans or shorts (appropriate length) and no tank tops for the ladies. Sadly, the last part we had to add was a no visible cleavage rule because it was becoming a major problem. We are having issues with people and their attire when not at the station or on emergency scenes. What would your department consider representation? Recently our department was covering fire and EMS for a state fair. The chief said prior to attending that if you were going to be there, you had to wear a department issued T shift, generic ff or EMT shirt. One of our members showed up wearing a tight tank top, too tight jeans, and her radio on her side. She did not come out to work though. She came over to our first aid station and sat down and said "I know I'm breaking the dress code, but I don't care." Each of our members working had their radios on their side and were dressed accordingly. If you were to walk by and see a group of people with radios on their side, would you assume those with the radios were representing the fire department?
yES SHE WOULD BE CONSIDERED IN YOUR GROUP AND ON DUTY, THAT BEING SAID IF YOU CANNOT FOLLOW SIMPLE RULES YOU SHOULD NOT BE APART OF THE DEPARTMENT. yOUR DEPARTMENT IS NOT THE FIRST OR WILL BE THE LAST TO HAVE A DRESS CODE BUT IT SHOULD BE FOLLOWED LIKE EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO.
I have seen one of our young female members walk in the station with shorts sooo short they could have been thongs. She acourse went and put on EMS pants afterwards. Another thing is footwear. Sandals, Flip Flops or anything close on the ambulance. One member got caught on a call wearing them. They have to take turnouts on calls when they respond and some have either refused or forgot to do it. They should keep a station shoe or boots in their gearrack when a call comes in that would be easy to slip on. We use to have jumpsuits for members to wear but they ended up being used for something else or disappear.
If you already have a dress code polcy in place, then the underlying issue or root cause of your concern is whether the department officer's or the fire chief are willing to enforce the policy.
A policy that has been developed to reduce a liability, but not enforced is a lip stick policy.
In your example given, the firefighter who showed up at the fair was not working, and therefore the dress code issue can not be enforced. BUT - what can be addressed is whether or not carrying her radio while off duty could be considered "representing" the fire department.
Most policies do not cover this type of behavior and it is unfortunate that the department must now consider changing the verbiage but times have changed and the policies must as well.
I would recommend that when a member is in the public and carrying any department issued tools, equipment, and apparrel, that they meet a professional standards policy. I would give the example that a volunteer who wore his radio to a bar or strip club, could possibly be precieved as representing the department, even though they may not be drinking alcohol.
My thought would be was she OUTSIDE the booth on the public side (Off Duty) or inside on the firefighter side (ON Duty) or was there no separation at all.
In my department when you're on duty at the station it's long pants and boots required. A Fire Department T-Shirt is strongly preferred but a clean, non-offensive t-shirt or Polo are also acceptable.
Responding to a call other than from the station, it's basically "Look Respectable" A Tank Top might be OK, but not if it were overly low cut or so tight that it left nothing to the imagination. Jeans and a T-Shirt are fine as long as there's no profanity or other offensive material.
The biggest problem I see in your story above is the member straight up said she doesn't care about the dress code. What other rules doesn't she care about? I'd say your chief and officers need to address that issue.
The question is,does she look good in a tank top and tight jeans? Also does she actually fight fire or has she ever fought a fire or does she just hang around and try and look the part? If she does the "job" for real who cares what she is wearing. I have never had a someone ask me to take off my bunker gear to inspect my attire. You should ask the same question about the fat very out of shape firefighters, looks much worse then a tank top any day of the week. The ones who can not even bench a 100 lbs or run a mile or two. The uniform does not make you a firefighter doing and performing does.
1. The ranking officer upon hearing the remarks about "not caring" and "not working" should have IMMEDIATELY requested that she surrender the department owned radio at that point as it is needed by those who ARE working and DO care! Resources are scarce and most FDs that I know of can't afford to give out radios and other things to just anyone.
2. The ranking officer upon hearing the above-mentioned remarks should have then advised the "member" that she was on suspension pending further action by the department board based on cause by her deliberate actions of willfully disobeying the department standing orders and dress code.
3. The offending member should then be made to appear before the board and advised that if the attitude persists then her services are not needed or wanted beause if she "doesn't care" about department SOPs, then how could she be depended upon to "care" about those she is supposed to be serving in the community. Further penaties could then be levied by the board at that time.
"Professionalism" seems to have evaporatied with this newer "ME" generation which seems to suffer from an utter lack of self respect, respect for others and accountability in general. We MUST try to recapture the pride and work ethic in this vocation! We MUST realize that we exist AT THE WILL AND PLEASURE OF THE COMMUNITY and the FD is NOT our special little "club house" where we can do what ever we want with the community's money and equipment! We are there to protect lives and property! We must conduct ourselves as such.
If one is too immature to be able to dress themselves properly, then they are ALSO too immature to be a part of an organization that holds peoples' lives in their hands, not to mention millions of dollars of high end equipment!
Ever hear of professionalism? If I had been working that booth at the fair I would have asked that woman to leave because she was not in uniform and not dressed appropriately to represent the FD. Wearing the radio does give the impression that she is on duty.
There in lies the problem with too many people in the fire service today...They believe they are above the rules and that they are irreplaceable. Rules and Regs are there for EVERYONE and if you can't, or won't, follow them then get out of the organization. It is that simple to me.
Remember what you said your department is VOLUNTEER. People have the choice to be there! Having a dress code at the station is a good idea, we as a combination department have one here. You can not control what they wear outside the department! As long as they are not running around in the dept t-shirt with booty shorts on then it should not be a problem. I wear old dept t-shirts that I have cut the sleeves off and notched a V in the neck, wear basketball short (with spandex under them), Flip flops, and carry my radio. What I do on my own time and wear on my own time is my business. As long as I'm not cussing up a storm, going into bars with the dept t-shirt on I don't see what the problem is. Now her attitude is a different story!! If she would of came in my booth and said that I would of told her to carry her ass! Just remember you can not always pick and choice the people that you have on your station, because in this day and time if you get people to show up is a bonus!! Like E4 stated does she do her job? And how well does she do it? What does she do? If you nothing is your answer then tell her to hit the road, because she is most likely a man chaser (and I put that nicely) or a t-shirt firefighter!
I think it's important to note that as a Volunteer you can enforce a dress code any time you're in a situation where you are "Representing" the department. That includes any time you're wearing the department logo, any time you're at the station or any time you're participating in a department function. I don't consider carrying a radio to be equal to representing the department because let's face it. We're not the only people who have hand held radios.
It's one thing to have a V notched in the neck of an old dept t-shirt, I don't think anyone would complain as long as the notch isn't so low that you're showing a huge amount of cleavage. rest of the outfit sounds like it'd be no concern to me as long as you had something appropriate to put on before showing up at a call whether it's bunker gear or even just a pair of sweat pants and good footwear depending on the nature of the call. When I say that I'm not talking about visually appropriate I'm talking about safety.
You state that we can't pick and choose. I disagree completely. We may not be able to bring in all the people we want to but that doesn't mean we should take everyone who applies either. Someone who works hard but has not respect for authority and the chain of command is dangerous on the fireground. They will be the one out there freelancing and getting one of their fellow firefighters hurt or killed. Someone who carries themself in a way that reflects poorly on the department can hurt us seriously too even if they are the hardest worker and follow the chain of command. The community members see that guy out drinking in the bar in a department T-Shirt or the young lady dressed in a way that although I don't mind seeing in general (Hey, I am a guy)working the department info booth and they make a decision about the department as a whole
The community does pay attention to how your department represents itself. That image plays into the support you're given, whether that support comes when you hold fund raisers, whether or not a community member makes a donation or when you're at odds with the local government and you need community backing to support your idea.
You say you can't "Pick and Choose", I say you can't afford not to pick and choose.