Recently, a news article aired with a ridiculous request from the Grand Junction Fire Department in Grand Junction, CO.
The news clip stated they are requesting the public to not wear shirts, hats, or patches bearing the fire department logo. They claim it may put you in a dangerous situation. **Cough, Cough, bull*#%&**. I could see it being potentially dangerous for citizens to wear clothing bearing law enforcement logos, but not for fire or EMS.
But what really struck me as ludicrous is their policy stating their personnel are not permitted to wear their hats or screen printed t-shirts when off-duty.
Sure they mean well, but here’s the problem as I see it, and it’s a big one.
Before I tell you why this is a ridiculous policy, it’s important to understand some background information about the lives of firefighters (and other similar professions).
A Little Background Info
While I don’t claim to know the specific inner-workings of the Grand Junction Fire Department, I am keenly aware of the lifestyles of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and police officers. All of these public service careers have several similarities, with one major similarity being the majority of the personnel eat, breathe, and sleep the job.
I know this because I was a paramedic for 10 years before I began my full-time career within the promotional products industry. Every day, I worked closely with local fire departments, both paid and volunteer. On a daily basis, I worked with law enforcement agencies. We were all friends with a common goal to help those in need. We all loved what we did.
Each of these agencies boasts pride in their departments. They train frequently to become the best at what they do. This training requires time spent while “off-duty.”
Firefighters are proud to be part of their fire department. The same goes for police officers and EMS personnel. This is a good type of pride that you don’t often find in the corporate world. All three of these careers require sacrifices for the individuals involved, as well as for their families. It requires long hours away from home and a lot of training. The training is continuous to stay current on new procedures and techniques and to master the newest equipment designed to protect and save lives or property.
It’s not uncommon for firefighters and EMS personnel to have a different t-shirt bearing their department logo which they wear for each day of the week. They are so passionate about promoting their department, those are the shirts they prefer to wear. They trained hard to get to where they are. Being “off-duty” doesn’t mean they aren’t a firefighter.
The Downward Spiral of Morale Begins
The emotional investment required to be in any one of these three fields is extremely high. Because of this, these personnel are proud to be part of their respective organizations.
When off-duty, a firefighter is still a firefighter. A police officer is still a police officer, A paramedic is still a paramedic. It doesn’t matter whether they are wearing their shirt with a logo on it or not. They will still react the same.
By creating a policy stating that you can’t support the department while off-duty, you instantly kill the morale of your personnel.
This absurd policy is promoting an atmosphere of mediocrity. Congratulations. With the stroke your pen, you have directly killed the pride of your personnel for what they love. You have squashed their excitement for your department. You have begun the process of converting your fire department into a corporate entity full of employees who show up only to get a paycheck. You have killed the desire for your employees to actively and positively promote your fire department to the public.
This decision sounds like it came from the top brass who haven’t been in the trenches in 20 years. Maybe they have lost touch with that feeling of love for the job. Instead, they are only concerned about conforming to a litigious society. Likely, these top decision-makers don’t have the same pride for the job they once had. Are they now only concerned with keeping their fat paycheck at the expense of extinguishing the pride their personnel have for their department?
The Most Disheartening News
It’s not uncommon for a department to create a ridiculous policy based on “what-ifs” and “hypotheticals,” but, in my opinion, the most disheartening statement from the article is, “Other fire departments in the area also feel the same way.”
Don’t let the herd mentality set in. Just because one department created a silly policy doesn’t mean your department should too.
Just because someone is wearing a t-shirt with the fire department logo on it doesn’t mean everyone is going to assume they work for the fire department. There are millions of screen printed t-shirts worn on a daily basis which contain company logos and most people don’t assume that person is affiliated with that company.
A Duty To Act
If you are not a firefighter but are wearing a shirt bearing a fire department logo, that doesn’t require you to act as a firefighter during an emergency as stated in the video.
However, when firefighters are off-duty, I guarantee they are going to act if an emergency arises in their presence. Whether or not they are wearing a shirt or embroidered hat with their fire department logo has zero bearing on their willingness to react. Simply because they are not wearing their department logo doesn’t mean their training is forgotten.
They will act because that is what they signed up to do. It becomes who they are. It’s not about getting paid to do it.
This whole notion of whether or not they are wearing the logo or not is illogical and obviously, the policy was created by those who have lost the passion for the job.
My hope is the firefighters of Grand Junction Fire Department don’t let this ridiculous policy crush their love for the job.
If I need the help of a firefighter, paramedic, or a police officer, I want one helping me who is in love with the job. I want someone who is proud of what they do. I don’t want someone whose ambitions for the job have been throttled by bureaucratic policies. I don’t want those who have become drones to the job due to fear of lawsuits.
A career as a firefighter is reserved for select individuals who have the passion for the job, but that passion can’t be released only during “business hours.” That passion has to be free-flowing all the time to continue, otherwise, it will die.