I constantly receive questions on here my website and on my social media accounts. I also belong to a couple of Facebook first responder groups where drill and ceremonies and honor guard questions are posted from time-to-time. For some questions, I just read the responses and learn; for others, I am able to share my knowledge. This one was a great question where I added a little information, but really just sat back, read, and learned.
In the group, Elmhurst [IL] Honor Guard Academy, firefighter Todd Kirkpatrick asked this great question: I’m looking for information and/or opinions regarding appropriate dress for on-duty personnel. Our fire department will be positioned along the procession route for a fallen police officer. We are not part of the processional, but want to pay our respects to the fallen officer. A few of the members are insistent on wearing turnout coats with helmet. They are stating the cold weather makes it appropriate and we are on duty anyway.
I feel wearing our dirty turnout gear is somewhat disrespectful when it would be just as easy to wear our duty shirts (button down shirt with a badge) and our duty jackets (yellow reflective squad jackets) along with our dress caps. My department is full-time with nine personnel on duty that day. We are firefighters and paramedics with 82% of our calls being EMS, so it’s not like we are likely to get called to a fire during this time.
My Facebook friend and firefighter, Glen Busch, had this excellent answer: There is nothing cut and dry however Turnout gear is work wear. it was designed for the mud of WWI Trenches originally. That being said not everyone has good quality Class “B” uniform much less class “A”. Personal preference especially for a memorial wear your duty uniform. Cap and Tie if possible would also be appropriate. And don’t forget to clean off your boots/shoes.
Firefighter Bryan Downie added, I was on duty a few miles east of Todd for the same procession. I’m also the Deputy Commander of our honor guard. One thing that I feel needs to be factored into the equation is weather. That particular day was extremely cold with steady winds. Our on duty crews wore turnout coats, helmets and fire gloves.
DrillMaster. The military requires headgear for rendering a salute (except for the Army and AF indoors) because all uniforms require headgear and since not all firefighter uniforms require headgear, requiring a salute only while wearing headgear (not that that is what you wrote), would require a last minute headgear/uniform scramble when, honestly, everyone just wants to show their respects.
Todd. The shift OIC ended up having both on and off duty personnel wear turnout coats, helmets and firefighting gloves. Looked very “uniform”. But in my opinion not appropriate or professional for a line of duty death.
My thoughts on the pictures of the firefighters is that they look absolutely wonderful! While firefighters understand much more what this uniform is all about and that it may not be a very good “ceremonial representation”, It looks to be the perfect way to pay respects to a fallen officer and, much more importantly, the officer’s family- what they saw was a great deal of respect being given to their loved one. It was awesome.