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    Default Religion vs. Safety

    The current issue in PA concerning the Amish volunteers being at odds with the state standard of no facial hair while using SCBA will certainly stir some emotional comments. I see it as very simple. The standard was written by OSHA to protect firefighters and anybody else who is required to work in a dangerous environment. What is next, someone with an aversion to wearing a helmet, gloves, or any other PPE. I don't think it is wise to create special rules for certain religious, cultural, gender, or any other group. We have worked very hard in the fire service to reduce line of duty injuries and deaths for many years. When I started in the early 80's the safety changes were well underway and have continued to the point we are at today. Some of the changes that have come from either governmental or NFPA guidance include, nomex hoods, full bunker gear, enclosed cabs on appratus, intergrated PASS, increased accountability of members on the fireground, and countless other things that once seen as too expensive or too cumbersome or not a part of tradition.
    The part of this issue involving dwindling volunteers in the rural areas must certainly be addressed. However, reducing the effectiveness of a critical safety item is not the answer. I applaud the PA State Fire Marshall for holding his ground. We need to continue to look for ways to make firefighting safer while maintaining our primary mission.

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    Yes, wearing the SCBA properly would violate their religious practices, but doesn't operating an engine or truck violate the same religious views?

    The Amish religion frowns upon using modern technology and electricity. How do these Amish FFs plan on pumping a fire, using a TIC, using a gas meter, using the Jaws, or any related activity without violating those same views that they claim their departments are forcing them to violate?

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    It is a sorry state of affairs when we have to resort to changing laws to allow some to help their neighbors. I am not Amish, and I don't live in Lancaster County Pa. either. BUT, based on information from varied sources, the Amish have a great tradition for helping others, and I have a great deal of respect for them. I support what the politicians in Lancaster County are trying to do. Over the years, my job has been made more difficult by well intentioned persons who want absolute safety no matter what. Why do we feel the need to protect people from themselves?? Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.
    You never get an answer because the answer would "It doesnt matter" The air might not last as long but it still works. Everyone bitches about people not volunteering and now when people do they still bitch. Leave the Amish alone. If they don't worry about it, why should you? They are big boys and I'm sure they understand the risks involved.
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    It is a sorry state of affairs when we have to resort to changing laws to allow some to help their neighbors. I am not Amish, and I don't live in Lancaster County Pa. either. BUT, based on information from varied sources, the Amish have a great tradition for helping others, and I have a great deal of respect for them. I support what the politicians in Lancaster County are trying to do. Over the years, my job has been made more difficult by well intentioned persons who want absolute safety no matter what. Why do we feel the need to protect people from themselves?? Here's one question that I've NEVER gotten a satisfactory answer for - Why is a perfect seal so inportant on a POSITIVE PRESSURE SCBA? Here's where I'm at: Firefighters should do things that are REASONABLY Safe. Firefighters themselves should determine what is REASONABLY safe. NOT OSHA. I'm for the Amish being exempt. Period.

    One of the biggest problems with having a beard while wearing an SCBA is that it makes a 30-minute bottle more like a 10-minute one, since a lot of the positive pressure air seeps out between the hair follicles and the mask. It's like going into a fire with your purge valve opened.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nhravlal View Post
    One of the biggest problems with having a beard while wearing an SCBA is that it makes a 30-minute bottle more like a 10-minute one, since a lot of the positive pressure air seeps out between the hair follicles and the mask. It's like going into a fire with your purge valve opened.
    So? Many don't wear their masks inside unless they really need to anyway. Whats the big deal?
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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    The big deal is that it's a sacrifice of safety.

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    ChicagoFF...

    Do tell...how many guys with beards on Chicago? I would bet ZERO...since it is clearly an OSHA violation to wear any type of respirator with facial hair that gets between the seal of the mask and your skin.


    Look...the facts are simple. NO regulatory agency will approve the wearing of SCBA with facial hair that interferes with the seal. So the emotional aspect of this is nothing more than that.

    FyredUp

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    I think what Chicago means is WHO cares what the Amish do in Amish land. I don't think there is going to be a mass influx of non-amish people looking to become firemen in Amish Land...nor will thier be a mass influx of Amish joining the ranks of the CFD. In Kiras Joel in Orange County, NY (a satmir hasidic jew village, ultra-orthodox) thier members are not required to shave either. during my time in FDNY-EMS I worked with an orthodox jew (not of the KJ type), who didn't have to shave either, actually I worked with a number of them. I agree with what Chicago says, they are big boys, and they know what can happen. They are also members of a very closed, very small ultra-religious contigent of people that require fire protection and are willing to do it themselves. I really don't forsee them tear azzing down a hallway with a smoothbore beating the beast back into the pits of hell.
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    If the Dept they work for is willing to insure them with the "alledgedly" increased risks of wearing facial hair with SCBA, what the heck do we care?
    Seems like this is an inter-departmental matter.

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    Except where the jurisdication may affect the rest of the FF's.

    It's not my fight, but for arguements sake, I'm for letting them have thier way, as long as it wouldn't cost the rule-abiding depts and taxpayers in the long run.

    Are they elegible for LODD benefits, state health insurance, workers compensation, etc. if so, follow the rules (I agree that if they are wearing SCBA to begin with, the religious angle is already tainted).

    If they are on thier own, let them do what they wish.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    ChicagoFF...

    Do tell...how many guys with beards on Chicago? I would bet ZERO...since it is clearly an OSHA violation to wear any type of respirator with facial hair that gets between the seal of the mask and your skin.


    Look...the facts are simple. NO regulatory agency will approve the wearing of SCBA with facial hair that interferes with the seal. So the emotional aspect of this is nothing more than that.

    FyredUp
    Have you ever tried wearing your hood under your mask? You can tighten it up enough so that there is very minimal leakage. I'm sure it would be the same with a beard. If they want to protect their own and do it there own way, who cares? OSHA? Thats your only argument?

    And McCaldwell - "Are they elegible for LODD benefits, state health insurance, workers compensation, etc. if so, follow the rules"

    If I were you I would be more worried about the douchbags crawling into homemade props at parades and lighting themselves on fire, the rocket scientists blowing up houses, volunteer departments that require no training other than showing up for the bake sale, drunk guys wearing their pagers and FD t-shirts at the bar trying to pick up chicks and ready to respond, and any of a thousand other retarded things that have been discussed here.

    Are a few Amish Volunteers really that bad? At least they will be sober!
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    There are a hundred different ways to many different tasks, but one thing that I have done, and seen, is learn from others. This may be good or bad. Lessons learned are a way of personal life and business. The bad ones tend to stick out in peoples mind. All OSHA/NFPA/ANSI, etc has done is take these lessons learned and enacted them into standards, laws, or reccomendations. Face it, the Fire/EMS Service is safety based. My outlook on safety is this.
    "Safety rules are written in blood. They are written because there was a near miss, injury, or fatality.The outcome is "The Red Words of Safety".

    The beard issue has been discussed for almost 20 years. I understand the religion factor as well. But maybe their firefighting needs to be limited to exterior defensive operations only. Let them wear a pack for exterior ffing or they don't fight fire. But we have to get over it and quit "diggin' up bones". Every year someone thinks they have the answer, but they don't. Rules are rules, wether they federal, state, local, or departmental. Follow them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kadempc View Post
    The beard issue has been discussed for almost 20 years. I understand the religion factor as well.
    Is this situation different than the one with the muslim gentlemen from, I think, Washington, DC? I seem to remember they had the same argument. My understanding is that DCFD relaxed their standards on beards because of this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    Is this situation different than the one with the muslim gentlemen from, I think, Washington, DC? I seem to remember they had the same argument. My understanding is that DCFD relaxed their standards on beards because of this.
    I believe there is currently a case of a firefighter in Philly who was a muslim when he was hired, but became "more devout" as time went on, and refused to shave. If I recall correctly, this case is still in the court system, and I believe the department has been prevented from firing him (for the time being) because he is able to get a seal with the BAs that Philly uses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF View Post
    If I were you I would be more worried about the douchbags crawling into homemade props at parades and lighting themselves on fire, the rocket scientists blowing up houses, volunteer departments that require no training other than showing up for the bake sale, drunk guys wearing their pagers and FD t-shirts at the bar trying to pick up chicks and ready to respond, and any of a thousand other retarded things that have been discussed here.

    Are a few Amish Volunteers really that bad? At least they will be sober!
    Can I get an AMEN?????
    Nicely stated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nhravlal View Post
    Yes, wearing the SCBA properly would violate their religious practices, but doesn't operating an engine or truck violate the same religious views?

    The Amish religion frowns upon using modern technology and electricity. How do these Amish FFs plan on pumping a fire, using a TIC, using a gas meter, using the Jaws, or any related activity without violating those same views that they claim their departments are forcing them to violate?
    I am sure their greater devotion to helping their fellow man and sense of community will overcome those obsticles.

    Having worked along side Amish firefighters in Western NY as a volunteer I'll take them over any volunteer wearing a XXXXXXXXXXXXXL "I fight what you fear" t-shirt.

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    Interesting Posts. Personally, I believe that the crux of the matter comes down to liability and litigation. The hair, facial hair, eyeglasses all are debated constantly as to whether or not "we" know what impacts our performance and safety and what unions, associations, administrators, test proctors, test manufacturers and municipal attorneys know. The District of Columbia has been through this not only with beards but also with dredlocks. It will only be a matter of time before a female firefighter will have to contest her being denied the religious freedom to wear a burkha while on duty and while operating on the fireground.

    I worked with a friend who while having facial hair, was not allowed to take his fit test in his volunteer organization, but was allowed and passed his fit test in his career organization. Likewise, a female volunteer was denied membership into the volunteer organization due to asthma, despite being under control and having her physician's endorsement. This young lady is now a career paramedic in the same combination department.

    kadempc is correct with the statement "safety rules are written in blood" however I would go one further and say that they become the "because I said so" rules of the fire service due to litigation. Despite the "brotherhood" and support of families of fallen firefighters in the line of duty, the governing body of various fire departments, municipalities and fire equipment manufacturers will always act in ways to protect themselves. Therefore we will always see rules and regulations that address safety "to the letter" and try to limit their liability.

    About a year ago, some friends and I were discussing the death of the girl who was struck by hose that had come off responding apparatus while it passed her. We all half heartedly agreed that a law or rule from NFPA or another similar organization would come out stating we'd have to have our hosebeds enclosed and under lock and key. Nearly a year later, the actual NFPA standard came out.

    Chicago is stating a truth. Most of the people I have worked with do not don their regulator until they need to. And we all know that makes sense. We all look at a 30 minute bottle, say to ourselves, "well, it really only has 20 minutes" and then we also say to ourselves, "ah it's not bad, besides, I'm down low, and on the stairwell one floor below feeding line." However, if an Amish firefighter (or anyone of us for that matter) becomes disoriented, lost, runs out of air and dies, then we all know that as in any investigation of a fatality, everything is looked at and scutinized. If it is discovered that there was no fit testing, if a beard interefered with the seal, if the SCBA was used incorrectly, then the liability is on the fire service and not the equipment. Despite "family" and "brotherhood" when loved ones want someone to "pay" or want to prevent the tragedy from happeniing to someone else, that is where we have these "rules". Think of it as the McDonlds' approach to firefighter safety:

    Caution: Contents in this cup are hot and may cause serious injury if spilled.
    Caution: Firefighting is dangerous. Unless you follow all the rules, your family may not recieve entitled benefits if you should become seriously injured or die.

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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    Is this situation different than the one with the muslim gentlemen from, I think, Washington, DC? I seem to remember they had the same argument. My understanding is that DCFD relaxed their standards on beards because of this.
    It's not the same at all. These people just want to vol. to protect their own community. Thats completely different than someone seeking employment and not wanting to meet his employers standards.
    I am a complacent liability to the fire service

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    Why so much arguement? Okay, the guy won't be able to get the very best possible seal on his SCBA when he is standing in the bucket brigade line.

    C'mon, lets face it - we are talking surround and drown operations here.

    You think the horse and buggy are going to get them all to the firehouse to get on the fire horse and buggy and still have enough time to do anything except watch the last couple of flaming boards fall down?

    Think about it.
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    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Why so much arguement? Okay, the guy won't be able to get the very best possible seal on his SCBA when he is standing in the bucket brigade line.

    C'mon, lets face it - we are talking surround and drown operations here.

    You think the horse and buggy are going to get them all to the firehouse to get on the fire horse and buggy and still have enough time to do anything except watch the last couple of flaming boards fall down?

    Think about it.
    I catch the Humor in your post, , But, just in case some don't, things have changed with SOME of the Amish. Younger folks are taking the Church in a new direction, slowly and carefully. The absolute taboo on "Modern Technology" is fading somewhat. You'll see these Gentlemen arrive on 2006 apparatus, using New PPE, and "Get Low and Get In" is the normal approach. The mind's eye picture of a young Amish gentleman tillering a Tractor Drawn Ladder Truck is a lot more reality than fiction. (Anyone from the Eden VFC on here?) Times change.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nhravlal View Post
    Yes, wearing the SCBA properly would violate their religious practices, but doesn't operating an engine or truck violate the same religious views?

    The Amish religion frowns upon using modern technology and electricity. How do these Amish FFs plan on pumping a fire, using a TIC, using a gas meter, using the Jaws, or any related activity without violating those same views that they claim their departments are forcing them to violate?
    Regarding the Amish religions stand against Technology:

    Most Amish are not against using technology because they think technology is bad. The reason they have a strong stand against using anything more than is absolutely neccesary is that they do not want to introduce the "what I have is better what you have" thought. If a buggy gets the job done, why do you need a car? And if you have a car, is it gonna be nicer than your neighbors car. They do not want to introduce vanity into their lives, or false pride because you have nicer things than someone else. They have a greater believe in God and community and the community is more important than your own gains. Most do not own cars, but they are not against riding in a car. There is usually one phone for everybody to share. And if you are ever in Amish country buying a quilt with your Visa, they will swipe it throught the Electronic Credit Card Maschine.

    Having a horse drawn carriage serves them Individualy. If a 2006 Pierce state of the art Fire Engine will serve the community, I do not believe they will have a problem with using it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nhravlal View Post
    Yes, wearing the SCBA properly would violate their religious practices, but doesn't operating an engine or truck violate the same religious views?

    The Amish religion frowns upon using modern technology and electricity. How do these Amish FFs plan on pumping a fire, using a TIC, using a gas meter, using the Jaws, or any related activity without violating those same views that they claim their departments are forcing them to violate?
    Actually, that sounds kind of cool.......


    Where do I sign up?

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    Ahh... Reminds Me Of Back In The Day...

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    Quote Originally Posted by clancyxdogg View Post
    Actually, that sounds kind of cool.......


    Where do I sign up?
    Now that I see the pics, it does seem kinda cool. Sign me up too.

    P.S. I call the street pipe!
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