How to buy EMS apparel & accessories

Personal safety should be your top consideration when selecting apparel; here are the top five things to keep in mind

The fit and cleanliness of your on-duty EMS apparel is a reflection of your status as an EMS professional. When you look in the mirror do you recite Will Smith’s best line from Men in Black, "…the difference between you and me is I make this look good?"

He was talking about his uniform. As soon as you step out of the ambulance, you are a walking billboard for your agency and profession. Follow your organization’s apparel policy for uniform style, fit, and color. You may not have any latitude other than the black pant and white shirt selected by your employer. Have dress uniform pants and shirts professionally fitted by a seamstress or tailor. Make sure to wear the boots or shoes you will be wearing on-duty for your fitting.

If you are a manager or part of a committee selecting apparel for your organization, personal safety should be your top consideration when selecting apparel. Here are the top five things to keep in mind:

1. Outerwear must be compliant with ANSI reflective guidelines if you are going to be working on public highways and roads.

2. Select protective features like flame retardant, puncture proof, steel toes, and water and fluid resistance based on task analysis of your EMS professionals. Paramedics cross-trained for vehicle extrication or technical rescue have additional uniform needs for personal protection compared to a paramedic performing primarily interfacility transports.

3. Remember to balance protective features with how it may restrict accomplishment of routine tasks. Clothing that is too restrictive will be tossed aside and often at the time when it is most indicated.

4. Select base layers that wick moisture (sweat) away from the body. Wicking can help keep you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Also, venting especially in outer layers can help dissipate heat from the body if conditions change during an incident response. Side zips and armpit zips help keep a rescuer cool without fully removing a jacket or jumpsuit.

5. Select apparel that requires minimal special care. I want to wash regular, dry with normal heat, and store. Ironing should never be required for day-to-day on-duty uniform apparel.

Finally, paramedic @seanhfitz reminds us to select apparel that is "not ugly." Selecting good looking uniform apparel will lesson individual personalization attempts to improve the style of a uniform. And yes even reflective equipment can be fit and styled to look good.

Add your additional suggestions and ideas for selecting on-duty apparel. Leave a comment below or email with your feedback.

Thanks to @seanhfitz and @adriandb for their input on this article.

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