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Home > EMS Products > Uniforms

DC Fire-EMS enforces clothing logo mandate

'If you want us to wear a certain item of clothing, issue it to us and we will gladly wear it instead of expecting us to come out of pocket to meet [the chief's] agenda'

By Paul Wagner

WASHINGTON — A veteran D.C. firefighter is speaking out about a growing controversy over uniforms, claiming the fire chief has created a hostile work environment.

Firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians have to wear a lot of gear to keep warm on the job. Caps, gloves, sweatshirts and coats. It is equipment that is generally not supplied by the fire department.

Under a new directive from D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, employees will be disciplined if they do not comply by this week.

So when the chief made comments on FOX 5 Tuesday claiming firefighters have been issued the gear by the department, one firefighter decided to speak out.

Lt. Robert Alvarado has spent 11 years responding to emergencies and fires in the District of Columbia. Just last April, he was severely burned with three others while searching a burning house in Northeast. The lieutenant says he loves his job, but he has a problem with the chief.

"All we are asking is to be is dealt with fairly," said Lt. Alvarado. "If you want us to wear a certain item of clothing, issue it to us and we will gladly wear it instead of expecting us to come out of pocket to meet his agenda. We are sworn order takers, but make it fair and give us the tools to do that.”

What has angered many firefighters is a directive to have this new patch on all of their hats, coats, sweatshirts and jackets. It is a cost not being reimbursed by the city.

On Tuesday night on FOX 5 News, Ellerbe had this exchange with anchor Laura Evans.

Evans: "It is expensive though, we have to say, winter wear is expensive to buy, if you are talking about buying a whole new set of uniforms."
Ellerbe: "They don't have to buy a whole new set of uniforms. We supply over $5,000 in outerwear and equipment for our employees. What they are talking about is purchasing sweatshirts and t-shirts that have the “DCFDEMS” on it. They are not talking about the outerwear that we provide.”

"We do get $5,000 worth of gear, but the majority of that is spent on structural firefighting gear that we use to go into burning building,” said Lt. Alvarado. “It’s a complete outright lie that we are issued outerwear. We are not issued outerwear.”

Lt. Alvarado decided to speak out on his own after seeing the chief on FOX 5. He knows he is sticking his neck out and will likely be disciplined for it.

In response to the Alvarado’s comments, Chief Ellerbe issued this statement:

"The outerwear that I was referring to is the running coat that our firefighters are issued. I would think that the reference to the cost would have indicated what coat I was referring to. Not following orders is insubordination; not having the proper uniform, if we don't have it to issue, (it) is not."

If you looked closely at the firefighters and EMS personnel working on a patient outside Truck 13's headquarters on Florida Avenue Wednesday, you would notice they were not wearing outerwear with patches. There was nothing identifying them as being first responders with D.C. Fire and EMS.

Lt. Alvarado also told us some civilian EMS personnel and higher ranking officers were issued new outerwear paid for by the city. And because of that, the lieutenant said he would have a tough time disciplining his men for not complying.

Chief Ellerbe confirmed the lieutenant’s story saying the department had some extra money and decided to make the purchases.

Republished with permission from MyFoxDC

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Patrick Nance Patrick Nance Thursday, January 05, 2012 4:21:11 PM Oh good grief, just supply the damn patches and quit being so cheap. If they buy their own outer gear, then give them the patch...
Scott Lancaster Scott Lancaster Thursday, January 05, 2012 5:22:22 PM with all of the issue that DCFDEMS has had over the past few years, is it really a great idea to make a political and public debate about something as stupid as patches and coats? Pay for the damn patches, then how about adding in some EMS training!
Dan White Dan White Thursday, January 05, 2012 5:31:02 PM In my many years of EMS I bought every patch and sewed them on with honor, gratitude, and respect. Perhaps the city should pay somebody to shine your shoes?
Diana Sprain Diana Sprain Friday, January 06, 2012 5:05:40 AM this is simple. Does the city pay out a uniform allowamce? If the answer is yes, then the fire personnel haven't a leg to stand on in this debate. If no, the City has to either supply them or pay for them.
Patrick Nance Patrick Nance Friday, January 06, 2012 8:14:32 AM Well, Dan when it becomes MANDANTORY, I believe there should be a clause in the contract that says the department supply it. I know it does in ours... when bought in bulk, a patch costs about $1 to $3 per item. If you shell out $10 that's one thing but think if every guy in the department shells out $10... somebody is making money and that's just not right. It has nothing to do with honor, gratitude and respect except of your employees and encouraging them to give back. I know every employer that I have worked for that supplied me without argument has had my support. But when the admin buys for itself and civilians and then stiffs the line firefighter, then shame on them.
Steven Hull Steven Hull Friday, January 06, 2012 12:05:06 PM Send we a patch of give a me a supplier and I will purchase one to offer at a much lower cost. We a are located very close to DC and supply these types of products all the time. If you are DCFDEMS I will make sure they cost very little. Contact me if you want more information. (434) 566-0077
Will Clamp Will Clamp Saturday, January 07, 2012 5:32:02 AM I can't agree more with LT. Alvarado more, I have also worked for services which required us to buy our own uniforms, equipment, or supplies. I can't stress how hard each emergency worker for thier money. Don't get me wrong, we all love the job, but, we are all over worked, under paid, and under appreciated at times. If you don't beleive me look at the budgets for most counties, cities, and municipalities accross the country. They beutication budget is larger than the budget to repalce aged equipment, it takes an act of congress to replace worn out, unsafe equipment. I know that each of us doesn't do the job becuase of the job, but becuase we make a difference and make this world just a little bit better. SO LEAVE US ALONE and let us do our work.