Home Fire News ‘Tuck in that shirt’ and other silly rules

‘Tuck in that shirt’ and other silly rules

HFD Station #51. Credit: Facebook
HFD Station #51. Credit: Facebook

When a little boy dreams about being a firefighter he probably isn’t expecting one of the biggest priorities of his boss will be to make sure he has his shirt tucked in. Being a firefighter seems like a pretty straightforward job.  You drive big trucks, put up ladders, drag hoses and spray some water on fire. For some reason when you put a bunch of people together in the fire station you end up with a whole bunch of silly rules.

In my opinion some of the silliest rules involve uniforms. Over my career there have been about 10 changes to the uniform rules. For a while we were allowed to wear t-shirts whenever we wanted to. A button up shirt was only found in the lockers for a couple years. That was followed by button up shirts with badges during “business hours,” which was determined to be from 8am until 5 pm. For a while we were expected to put on a button up shirt when we woke up at night, even though that shirt was shortly covered with a bunker coat there was no exception. I guess someone thought that we would look better to a homeowner after we put out their house fire if we were all sweaty in a uniform shirt instead of a t-shirt.

It is amazing how someone can advance up the ranks and change their opinion and enforcement of the rules at every step. A firefighter that we will call Fred for this article was not very punctual when it came to arriving at work. He also spent a lot of his work days wearing a t-shirt that had the logo of his favorite team, instead of the appropriate fire department logo. He often wore gym shoes and was proud of his white socks. Over a period of 15 years this guy went from firefighter to Assistant Chief. During his reign he would often approach firefighters and request to see their socks to make sure they were wearing dark colored socks. As an adult I never really appreciated that sock check, I chose to wear boots so my socks were exempt.

Most of the silly rules come from a knee jerk reaction from a Chief officers as a result of someone doing something stupid. Stupid things happen all the time, and the fire station is no exception. One of the silliest things is to implement a backing-up rule because someone backed into the station. I don’t think there is anyone on any fire department that tries to back into the building. At one point my department implemented a “wake up” rule. The station officer was required to make sure everyone was up early enough to be out the door at shift change. The Chief wanted to eliminate the time that was wasted with the off-going shift visiting with the shift coming on duty. That was a big mistake that still hurts our department every day.

Silly rules can really hurt the fire service. The biggest problem with silly rules is that they never go away. These rules get put in the book and get pulled out from time to time, and a lot of times the reason they get pulled out is not a good one. The best rules are those that are not written in stone. We are all going to do silly things or make a mistake sometime, it doesn’t matter if there is a rule against it. Administrators need to take out that book of regulations and decide if they need to keep all that garbage. Rules don’t prevent mistakes, and wearing a badge and tucking your shirt in doesn’t make you a better firefighter. Use some common sense when it comes to rules.

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  1. You are right, tucking your shirt in does not make you a better firefighter, but it does show that you have some sense of pride your appearance and your job. It shows you may actually have some sense of responsibility. You may not really know what you are doing, but looking professional doing it will definitely improve the professionalism displayed and improve the public perception, which as we know In the fire service goes along way. I agree with the badge deal as we have been through this for years at my department. Sometime “silly” rules are the difference in looking like a slob or a professional in the public court of opinion. And we often need the public to stand with us on issues that city council or board of mayor and alderman try to shove down our throats.
    Polishing boots is another thing that I often see or lack of polish on boots that bothers me as well. Show some pride in your job and reflect a positive light on your department and city by creating a professional appearance.
    So this firefighter will continue to tuck his shirt in and “look like somebody” as my dad would say.

  2. Hey going to have to disagree with you, in a value driven organization, officers don’t need to tell people to tuck in their shirts, shave, cover their tattoos or wear a uniform, The word uniform means the same. John Eversole had the best quote I have ever read: “Our department takes 1,120 calls every day. Do you know how many of the calls the public expects perfection on? 1,120. Nobody calls the fire department and says, ‘Send me two dumb-ass firemen in a pickup truck.’ In three minutes they want five brain-surgeon decathlon champions to come and solve all their problems.” Next time you get on an airplane as you past the cockpit notice that the pilot is wearing a white pressed shirt and tie with shoulder boards and a hat, I have want you to consider and ask who is flying your airplane or riding on your fire truck ? When it’s time for negotiations we want the council to treat us like professionals, we protect the most important things in peoples lives: Them, their family members and their property, we should always act and present ourselves in a professional manner. Two weeks before I retired I stopped by the station to gas my command vehicle, I didn’t go inside but the BC caught me by the pump, he said I had no idea you had normal clothes (I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts), he said I have never seen you without a uniform or business suit on. Crawling down from my soap box.


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