Thread: Beards

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    Default Beards

    We had a big dustup in our department recently because of someones beard, basicly a old timer has had a beard since he joined the department in the early 80's, about 15 years ago some SOG's were put togather for our department that said facial hair would no longer be allowed, but they put a special provision into the SOG essentially grandfathering in this gentlemans beard. Some of us Fireman had some issues with the SOG's recently and we wanted some clarification on some items from the county attorney, the gentlemans beard being grandfathered among other things was a causalty of the county attorney reveiwing the SOG. He was ask to shave his beard to resign, he ended up resigning. Its created a lot of hard feelings towards the guys that wanted the clarification.......
    Anyone else have similiar experience or drama within their department?

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    Quote Originally Posted by iggerz View Post
    We had a big dustup in our department recently because of someones beard, basicly a old timer has had a beard since he joined the department in the early 80's, about 15 years ago some SOG's were put togather for our department that said facial hair would no longer be allowed, but they put a special provision into the SOG essentially grandfathering in this gentlemans beard. Some of us Fireman had some issues with the SOG's recently and we wanted some clarification on some items from the county attorney, the gentlemans beard being grandfathered among other things was a causalty of the county attorney reveiwing the SOG. He was ask to shave his beard to resign, he ended up resigning. Its created a lot of hard feelings towards the guys that wanted the clarification.......
    Anyone else have similiar experience or drama within their department?
    Yes, we had these issues 30 years ago.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Yes, we had these issues 30 years ago.
    Sounds about right.

    It's a simple choice: grow a beard or be a firefighter; one or the other.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Your solution to this problem is going to depend on your departments underlying philosophy on membership and you will fall into 1 of 2 basic groups.

    Group A: Every member should be able to perform any job because you never know who will show up to what call(s) or when.

    Group B: It's OK to have members who can only perform select activities / rolls on the fire-ground - the potential problem being that on 1 call you end up with 6 pump operators and no interior qualified firefighters.

    Now - if you're department has the manpower / staffing to be a "Group B" department without coming up short in some area - then your simple solution would be to re-word your SOG's such that you must comply with the facial hair policy to be considered SCBA qualified & thus an "interior" firefighter. That way this old timer could come back and still be an apparatus operator, or other exterior support role.

    Also (and I know it's semantics but it has teeth) SOG's are guidelines and as such may be deviated from - hence the name "Guidelines" whereas SOP's (Procedures) are interpreted more as "law".

    Finally, look into your usage of the words Will/Shall vs Should (and similar verbiage). The former implies little to no leeway whereas the latter again infers that this is the "routine" way but departure from this is accepted.

    My "bottom line" personal opinion - unless you have a waiting list of able bodies breaking down your door to join, then running off an older reliable and experienced member over such an issue is silly. However I DO NOT believe in making in house exceptions to safety standards (NFPA, OSHA, etc).

    Good Luck with sorting out the issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by N2DFire View Post
    Group B: It's OK to have members who can only perform select activities / rolls on the fire-ground - the potential problem being that on 1 call you end up with 6 pump operators and no interior qualified firefighters...

    ...My "bottom line" personal opinion - unless you have a waiting list of able bodies breaking down your door to join, then running off an older reliable and experienced member over such an issue is silly. However I DO NOT believe in making in house exceptions to safety standards (NFPA, OSHA, etc).
    This is us. Two of our primary engine drivers have beards, and they don't plan on shaving for the benefit of the department. If we know we have qualified personnel driving and pumping, we can take our firefighters and assign them tasks that involve donning a face piece.

    It's not a huge issue for us, as only three of our members have beards anyway.

    It would be nice to say "shave or else" but it's simply not realistic for a lot of volunteer departments in the US.
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    It is simple, you want a beard go find something else to do. To me there is no other choice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by N2DFire View Post
    Also (and I know it's semantics but it has teeth) SOG's are guidelines and as such may be deviated from - hence the name "Guidelines" whereas SOP's (Procedures) are interpreted more as "law".
    This is simply not true... There is no more legal basis for one over the other.

    Simply how you title these procedures makes no difference. Its how they are written.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    I have to take a mask fit test every year that can't be passed if you have a beard.
    Stephen J Bourassa
    Latham FD (NY)
    member since 1969
    challenge competitor since 1993

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    Quote Originally Posted by N2DFire View Post
    Your solution to this problem is going to depend on your departments underlying philosophy on membership and you will fall into 1 of 2 basic groups.

    Group A: Every member should be able to perform any job because you never know who will show up to what call(s) or when.

    Group B: It's OK to have members who can only perform select activities / rolls on the fire-ground - the potential problem being that on 1 call you end up with 6 pump operators and no interior qualified firefighters.
    A third group could also exist that is purely administrative. They assist with fundraising and the administration of the department, but will not be participating on the fireground. We have a few of these members, and they perform necessary functions and free the rest of us up for the fireground work that we signed up for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iggerz View Post
    basicly a old timer has had a beard
    Is he/Was he expected to wear SCBA?
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    Default Beards

    In our Fire District anyone with a beard WELL NOT BE ENTERING ANY FIRE .....There are a few who do have beards but they are peripheral employees and stay outside of structure fires. We even had the Chief wearing a beard......and that was to make sure he stayed outside as he was injured and always had "The Itch" to go in.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JayDudley View Post
    In our Fire District anyone with a beard WELL NOT BE ENTERING ANY FIRE .....There are a few who do have beards but they are peripheral employees and stay outside of structure fires.
    This has come up for us a couple of times - our policy is you can wear a beard if you want, but you will not be donning an SCBA in training or at a fire.

    If we threw out those guys who can't (or won't) train and prepare for interior ops, the jobs we give them would have to be done by the interior-attack guys, leaving nobody to enter the building.

    I'd be happier if everyone was interior qualified and I do everything I can to encourage more guys to qualify, but in the meantime y'gotta dance with the one what brung ya.
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    Default Beards

    Good Point Dubya...The trend is to not have beards and there is no real problem with them here. We have currently two with beards and one is the ex-fire chief. He knows he's an outsider and will not be donning a SCBA and going in.......
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    It is simple, you want a beard go find something else to do. To me there is no other choice.
    So you would get rid of a trained pump operator/driver or deny an experienced truck driver a position of the department as a driver/operator if he had or decided to grow a beard?

    You must have one hell of a pool of volunteers.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-23-2011 at 12:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    A third group could also exist that is purely administrative. They assist with fundraising and the administration of the department, but will not be participating on the fireground. We have a few of these members, and they perform necessary functions and free the rest of us up for the fireground work that we signed up for.
    True.

    But the idea that because somehow has a beard he can't be functional on the fireground in any capicity just blows my mind.
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    If I had an experienced Pump Operator and he had a beard he'd be on the panel.....and when I was an Engineer and had to go in ....it must have been on hell of a fire.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    So you would get rid of a trained pump operator/driver or deny an experienced truck driver a position of the department as a driver/operator if he had or decided to grow a beard?

    You must have one hell of a pool of volunteers.
    Actually we do. For the first time in my association with my #1 POC FD we are talking about limiting the membership because we simply do not have enough PPE or the room to accomodate more.

    I am not the Chief here, merely the training officer, but if I were the Chief I certainly would have that policy in place. Unlike you and others here I do not believe in exterior only, not SCBA qualified, firefighters. You believe that is a sound practice I do not, hence my stance on beards. When I was Chief I made it clear that anyone who chose to wear a beard was NEVER going to go interior either for a real incident or a training fire. Funny thing is that changed a lot of people's minds about beards, especially the younger guys who wated to "Slay the dragon!"

    You don't have to like my opinion, or agree with it. We had a firefighter retire from our POC FD about a year and a half ago at age 65. He was a pump operator for his last several years, but he was still SCBA capable if we ever needed him to go inside. You see we utilized him in an exterior pump operator mode but did not neuter his ability to be an interior firefighter if the need arose.
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    One part of the problem we had with beards is out of 20 volunteers you just never know who is going to be able to respond to a call, I have been on calls where you had only 3 guys show up, we were on that call for a good 15-20 minutes before additional crews started arriving, If you can't depend on the guys showing up to do "everything" then why have them on your department!

    The 2nd problem was with the SOG's.......why have a policy then make exceptions for certian people...because he is the Chiefs buddy or he has been around "forever"....out stance was everyone follows the policy or don't have the policy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Unlike you and others here I do not believe in exterior only, not SCBA qualified, firefighters.
    I think that your core assumption here is mistaken: that departments "believe" in this, and by extension, choose it. I know of no rural fire department that doesn't work toward the membership you describe.

    Meanwhile, we leverage the only manpower pool that we have - by putting the exterior-only members on the pump, in tankers, on traffic, and in other jobs that have to be done before entry can be made. I know that if my department didn't have those individuals, some of those who can make entry would have to do those other tasks, and there would be too few left to mount safe interior operations.

    Do I like this situation? Of course not; I'd prefer a crew of fully-trained firefighters for maximum flexibility in the irregular staffing of rural firefighting, and I do what I can to get there with constant recruitment and encouragement. The one thing I can't do much about is 25 years of demographic shift.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Actually we do. For the first time in my association with my #1 POC FD we are talking about limiting the membership because we simply do not have enough PPE or the room to accomodate more.

    I am not the Chief here, merely the training officer, but if I were the Chief I certainly would have that policy in place. Unlike you and others here I do not believe in exterior only, not SCBA qualified, firefighters. You believe that is a sound practice I do not, hence my stance on beards. When I was Chief I made it clear that anyone who chose to wear a beard was NEVER going to go interior either for a real incident or a training fire. Funny thing is that changed a lot of people's minds about beards, especially the younger guys who wated to "Slay the dragon!"

    You don't have to like my opinion, or agree with it. We had a firefighter retire from our POC FD about a year and a half ago at age 65. He was a pump operator for his last several years, but he was still SCBA capable if we ever needed him to go inside. You see we utilized him in an exterior pump operator mode but did not neuter his ability to be an interior firefighter if the need arose.
    I guess it's a very good thing that you have the pool to have to consider liminting the number of members. I can tell you that there isn't a VFD around here that have that "problem".

    There were a couple of departments in the area of my last VFD that had a limit, and a waiting list, but with the exception of those 2 departments, nobody else was lucky enough to be in that situation.

    We do disagree on the interior only concept, but hey, if we all had the same opinion, the world would be kind of bland.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DubyaVFF View Post
    I think that your core assumption here is mistaken: that departments "believe" in this, and by extension, choose it. I know of no rural fire department that doesn't work toward the membership you describe.

    Meanwhile, we leverage the only manpower pool that we have - by putting the exterior-only members on the pump, in tankers, on traffic, and in other jobs that have to be done before entry can be made. I know that if my department didn't have those individuals, some of those who can make entry would have to do those other tasks, and there would be too few left to mount safe interior operations.

    Do I like this situation? Of course not; I'd prefer a crew of fully-trained firefighters for maximum flexibility in the irregular staffing of rural firefighting, and I do what I can to get there with constant recruitment and encouragement. The one thing I can't do much about is 25 years of demographic shift.
    People talk a lot about the "what if only the non-interior members show up? " scenario. The reality is unless you have a roster heavily leaning towards non-interior folks, there is a minimal chance that you will get only non-interior members.

    The other reality is that most folks are non-interior for a reason that simply prevents them from being interior such as age, closterphobia, previous injury which could cause a problem during interior ops or a lack of time for sufficient training. These are generally things that can not be overcome by forcing them to be interior, and 90% of the time, you will lose them if you do. The logic of saying that because someone who can pump a truck but chooses not to or can't go interior isbn't of major value simply makes no sense to me.

    If you need more interior manpower, call mutual aid early. Are you really going to pull your pump operator or tanker drivers or water shuttle staffing, and leave the pump unmanned or no water flowing to the fire?
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    I have been on calls where you had only 3 guys show up, we were on that call for a good 15-20 minutes before additional crews started arriving, If you can't depend on the guys showing up to do "everything" then why have them on your department!

    Because, in your All or nothing approach, if one of those 2 or 3 guys you mention above has a beard or otherwise is limited in what they can do, then you have only 1 or 2 guys instead of 2 fully qualified firefighters and a good pump operator.

    In my department most of us who are fully qualified and completely physically capable work full time. There are several older guys who may not be in the physical shape to hoist around the hydraulics on an MVA or run a 2 1/2 inch hose line on a structure fire but they can run the pump or perform other tasks on the fireground including taking command of the situation.

    During the day when many of us guys who are healthy enough to do any job out there are at work and not available to respond it's very nice to have any help you can get. Having those limited guys (Who may have physical restrictions but reserves of knowledge that would make many guys on here jealous) frees up the firefighters without excessive physical limitations to do the grunt work.

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    There are a few guys o my VFD that have beards, and all of them can wear a SCBA and have a seal. Our numbers are low and we have to take what we can get. If we ran off our bearded firefighters, then at our last structure fire, no one would have been there. As long as you get a seal on your BA, I don't see what the big deal is.

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    The fact that escapes all of you that allow guys with beards to mask up is there is not a single regulatory agecy that allows a respirator of ANY kind, including positive pressure SCBA, to be worn by those with facial hair that interferes with seal. AND all that means is any hair between the facepiece and the skin.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SH953 View Post
    As long as you get a seal on your BA, I don't see what the big deal is.
    Tell that to your state, local and federal regulatory agencies as you fill out a check for them for the fines if you ever get audited (or god forbid have a respiratory injury or worse......)

    29 CFR 1910.134 folks!

    (and yes, Volunteer agencies do fall under the requirements, and yes, volunteer agencies can, will, and have been fined for failure to comply with state, local and federal workplace safety regulations.)

    And for all you young guys out there who are sporting the currently popular "goatee" look- this includes you too! Have a beard or goatee? Don't wear SCBA.
    Last edited by FWDbuff; 06-24-2011 at 09:53 AM.
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