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?

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I am attending a Japanese anime convention this weekend in Baltimore and I dropped in a on a planel dicussion on Cosplaying or costume design and wearing. One of the things discussed was when to wear or not to wear underwear. They told of the year before of a young lady spotted wearing a short skirt for her costume and going Commando on the up escalator in the convention center. This maynot be a fire dept related subject but you never know when something like that could happen.
Yes, I was kidding when I said it depends if she looks good in a tank to and tight jeans. I was not kidding about over weight out of shape firefighters, it is not a joke. But a fat officer telling someone they are not in uniform is nuts if you actually think about it. There should be a policy of not being an over weight and or out of shape firefighter, try to enforce that and you will lose 98% of your department.
Completely irrelevant to the topic of a FEMALE firefighter being inappropriately dressed at fire department functions.

Your point is flawed as the 2 items are unrelated. There is a policy in place about being appropriatety dressed. Abide by it or get out. If there is a policy about physical fitness, abide by it or get out.

Your 98% statistic says a lot about YOUR FD if it is true and nothing about any other. That statistic like almost all others has no basis in fact and can be easily refuted.
Not irrelevant? It's about public image. The topic is about "professionalism". So what you are saying as long as she has the proper shirt on and let's say she is so overweight the buttons are screaming it is ok? Whatever! I've been doing this almost 30 years. It is not just My FD, look around, go to FDIC and open your eyes people from around the country and you will get a general snap shot of FD fitness as a whole. I don't care if the numbers a as low as 20% the public looks at the person, not just the uniform. You put a fat guy in a suit you still have a fat guy. Image is overall not just one area.
Is a fat guy selling himslef as a sex object?
Jack and Crabbe hit on it earlier.... "I know, but I don't care"

If the Chief set the dress before the event then a reprimand of some sort should have followed. Whether or not she chose to work the event is irrelevant. If she had a radio on her side she chose to represent the fire department. In a VFD community having a radio on your person is usually all it takes for the genpub to associate you with the FD at least in our community.

The people with the "don't care" attitude have no room in the fire service IMO. Ranging from dress codes to training to daily operation. It's inexcusable in ALL aspects.
We have had this problem with this member for quite a while now. It's not just the way she chooses to dress, but an overall attitude problem. She will dress really provacative and when someone pulls her aside to say "Hey, so-and-so made some rude comments about the way you are dressed. I just wanted to give you a heads up so it won't happen again." she starts screaming that everyone is against her. She's "quit" so many times I've lost count. Someone always follows her to calm her down and all is well again. We've all been in situations where we may not have on the best clothes to respond to a call, but most of us make the attempt to swap a dirty shirt for a clean one, etc. As an EMT when I walk into someone's home, I want to give my patient and their family the impression or a knowledgeable, professional medical provider. This girl would respond in a tight tank top with a push up bra that showed almost everything. She got two huge hoops pierced through her bottom lip and often wears bright blue eyeliner, almost neon blue you'd see at Halloween. She actually was responding to a brush fire one day in a tank top and brought a T shirt to change into. Everyone was shocked... until she put it on and it had a huge Budweiser logo on it. She claims everyone is against her and cries foul. I am just so frustrated that it's getting hard for me to go to our regular meetings and training.
I am just so frustrated that it's getting hard for me to go to our regular meetings and training.

Amanda, can I ask as to what your intentions are with presenting this in the forums? Are you honestly lloking for advice to remedy the situation, or are you looking to just air a grievance? Or is it a combination of both? Are there other underlying issues at hand here or personal animosity that are being sought?

The issue really does come down to an enforcement issue, plain and simple. If the members, officers, and chief won't enforce the issue, then go above the chain of command. There is a chain of command for a reason and at one point the buck does stop....typically with an elected official.

The question thus becomes as to how much you want to see this rule enforced and are you ready and able to take fallout associated with it? Now the easiest thing to do is to bring the issue up the chain, go to your immediate officer, then to the AC, to the chief. At that point you can either accept their decision and take things in stride or if you don't see the enforcement, look to the police and fire commission or equivalent, to the elected officials and so on.

If that is the route you would want to choose, then have your ducks in a row with actual documentation and evidence. Get people who are willing to back you and acknowledge they say the same issues. The case can be made that if the command staff will not enforce this rule, what other rules are thus at risk? Safety? Personnel protection? But, the question is, is it worth the cost? Because if so choosing to go such a route, there can be animosity on you.

So what do you want to do with this situation?

My personal recommendation is to bring this to the chain, especially if current or future issues. Meaning the scenarios you describe here are in the past and you can not go by these. However, if you notice violations in the future, it is THEN that you bring the issue up, address it, document it. For instance, if the same scenario presented itself in the future, you first tell the member she is out of uniform, if she doesn't leave or remedy the situation, you report it to the officer, if they take no action you bring it to the Asst Chief, and to the chief.

That is how the issue should be taken care of, which means the only way you will see change is if the rule is violated again in the future. Let bygones be bygones, but if the situation presents in the future, then step up and say something then and get the ball rolling. Documentation, evidence and witnesses will be your friend if truly looking to see change that isn't happening. However, if you witness a similar situation and say nothing, then don't complain.
Call me old fashioned, but if she responded to a medical call at my residence with 2 huge hoops pierced through her lip and bright neon eye shadow on she wouldn't be caring for a member of my family and I would be filing a complaint that day. I would find it hard to trust someone's judgement medically if they showed that poor of judgement professionally on how to be properly attired.

Imagine an elderly gramma, or a child, looking up and seeing that from their sick bed...
Which still becomes an enforcement issue, Don. Although this is another avenue to have such policy enforced is public complaint, although it sounds as though that has occurred by the local paper and comments made. So back to square one of an enforcement issue. Doesn't seem the command staff wants to make that call.
Thus another reason people leave the volunteer fire service. Inconsistent enforcement of rules, regs, and the appearance of sacred cows has an amazingly negative impact on volunteers.

I is time the officers step up and do the right thing here.
John, my intention was to seek the opinions of others in this field to see if I'm over reacting or if I am right in my feelings that her behavior is unacceptable. I know that everyone is different and I respect that. What she does on her own time is none of my business. I just don't know what to do when other members are uncomfortable but are like me in fearing the backlash of stepping up to enforce the rules. She definitely has a "fan club" and in their eyes she does no wrong. When I joined the dept. almost 5 years ago people had the impression I was just there for the attention, or to meet guys. I've worked hard since day one to prove I wanted to be there for the right reasons. I'm pretty much known as one of the guys and a go to person for young females entering the field. I guess this boils down to the fact that our department has a bad reputation due to some of the instances I've spoke of. If some smart comment is made about us and our (insert derogatory word here about women) female members, someone steps up to say that I'm not included in that category. But the new members on other departments or instructors who have not met me, put me in that same category. That is my biggest frustration.

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