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The Name Game: Does FEMS mean anything to the citizens of the Nation's Capital?

Sometime in the late 1970s Winfield Kelly decided it was an insult to refer to Prince George's County as "PG County" or just "PG." County Executive Kelly was the first of many to try and get us to stop saying "PG". To this day I can't understand why the shorthand is a slight to the people who live in the county.

Being a somewhat rebellious county employee I always made sure I used "PG Fire" and not "Prince George's" when talking on the mutual aid channel as a dispatcher.

I couldn't get away with it in my TV job starting sometime in the late 90s, almost 20 years after Winfield Kelly left office. Someone convinced management that it was politically incorrect to call it "PG". If that is so, why does the fire department to this day use the logo "PGFD"?

Is it also an affront to the residents of the District of Columbia to hear the Nation's Capital referred to by people all across the country as "DC"? 

Which is a roundabout way to bring you the story by my friend Melanie Alnwick at WTTG-TV (having watched the station since the days of Captain Tugg I can't bring myself to say or write the more recent "Fox 5").  The story is about an identity crisis for the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

I think it was sometime in the late 1990s (could have been later) that those on the EMS side of the house convinced me I was not being very accurate in my reporting when I talked about the "DC Fire Department" or the "DC Fire Chief". The issue wasn't "DC". The agency's name had been changed to include "EMS" and I wasn't keeping up with the times in my reports. I tried to ignore the complaint because it was easier to say "DC Fire". I was also somewhat of a traditionalist. And I could argue "DC Fire" was the term most people, including the citizens, used and understood. But in the end, I realized they were right and I was wrong. It was the correct name and it described accurately the role of the agency.

Melanie's story is about the a more recent name change. At some point after the move to the "District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department" the bureaucrats in the District government started referring to the agency by the acronym FEMS. It made it easier for the government's internal communications and has been slowly creeping into its external communications like the city website.

I never once said "FEMS" on the air or wrote it in my copy for the Internet, even though people like City Council member Phil Mendelson use it all of the time in public hearings. The reason I never used it is because those watching the TV report would be scratching their heads asking what the hell I was talking about. I'd be willing to bet good money that if you stopped 100 people randomly on the streets of DC almost no one could tell you what FEMS is. 

That hasn't stopped the new administration in the city from starting to push the name FEMS. That's what Melanie's story is about. 

Good luck to them. I think the city will need a giant advertising budget if they want the public to understand FEMS and start identifying fire and EMS services by that name. It might be real confusing for tourists. But that is just my opinion after covering the department and the city for more than three decades. For all I know the administration of Mayor Vincent Gray has done focus groups that indicate FEMS is the answer and is a short way to communicate the mission of the agency. (After this column was posted, the unsolicited reaction I've received from those not associated with fire and EMS has been consistant. All believe it may a better name for a product associated with women than a way to identify first responders. It would be interesting to learn whether an unbiased focus group produces similar results.) 

Still, I can't imagine when we will hear the first citizen say, "Call FEMS I'm having a heart attack" or "Call FEMS the house is on fire". The public understands "fire", "ambulance", "911" and possibly "EMS". FEMS will probably take a lot of training. Just remember, 35-years later and many of us are still calling it "PG".


Comments - Add Yours

  • Anon

    The eagle patch says FIRE and EMS.  What more does he want?  We don't want to be a firemen with the word FEMS on our backs..  What a target for jokes that makes us.  The chief is using this as psycho warfare against a membership that has not respected him for years.  He has very few friends and even a few of them are starting to grumble about his micro-managing of their actions.  He won't last.  Smart but not that smart!

    • Anonymous

      For being short on bugets. What do you think this will cost. Renaming signs, letter heads and equipment an on an on it never ends.

    • anonymous

      This is all about weeding the department from those of us who would dare to live outside the city and not be "representative" of D.C.  Change the patch, change the schedule to make it impossible to afford to come to work, disrupt families, layoff as many as possible to sweep away those from PA, DE, MD, VA, and, oh yeah, rehire from the cadet program at the same time.  How do you have the gall to ask council to reinstate that program while talking of laying off dedicated firefighters? 
      We got your number.  I hope this unites the entire department, regardless of where they live or what color or what sex they are , against you!  You proved yourself untrustworthy in the past-just ask the residents of D.C. who almost had to pay you 5 years of undeserved pension – nothing has changed. 

  • Anoym.

    All this boils down to changing a legacy to make a new legacy… it seems to me it is all about power and making his mark so the new chief known as the guy who made the change of a 140 year old tradition. 
    In a time when departments and cities should be cutting back, he wants to waste funds changing a name that affects morale and tradition – not to mention something that comes out of the pockets of firefighters directly. 

  • Anonymous

    WE all provide EMS services, plus haz mat, Etc..Remember we are one unified agency now. LAFD provides all services. Why is it only an insult here. We are DCFD and we come wether you require medical help, Rescue from a car crash or your house is on fire. When you need help who do you call? The Fire Dept. Not to mention we are the only area Dept that must buy most of our own uniform items. Is it ok to tell employees who save the city money to throw away all your previously approved apparell just because it says DCFD. This is one of the biggest points I don't think is brought up enough,,

    • Joe Paczkowski

      Actually, almost no one calls the fire department. People call 911, which may or may not be directly provided by the fire department (in California, for example the first point of contact is often the police department who then transfers the call) and the vast majority of people don't care who shows up provided they are equiped, trained, and motivated to do their job. It could say ___ Fire Deparment, _____ EMS, ______ Ambulance Service, or 99 Cent Store on the side of the emergency vehicle.
      Now if we really wanted to get into a nomenclature war, wouldn't DC Emergency Medical Services and Fire Suppression be a more accurate description of what they do day in and day out?

  • Anonymous

    If you say "FEMS with a slight pause between the F and EMS it sounds more derogatory.  Sometimes Mr Mendalson does that and the first time I heard him say it that way, I could not stop laughing

  • Brokenhearted

    You wouldn't believe what this has done to the morale of the guys, not to mention I cannot afford to pay the hundreds of dollars required of me to change my uniforms.
    I'm well…brokenhearted.

  • Brian

    "D.C.F.D." Whats in a name?- Exactly 100 Firefighters have made the supreme sacrifice while serving under the "D.C.F.D." in its proud 140 year history. Each of them in the line of duty while serving the citizens and visitors of our great Nation's Capitol, Washington, D.C. Each and every one of them fought and died while upholding an oath that was sworn before the great leaders of the "D.C.F.D." Along side these men were the over 12,000 men and women who have ever served under the "D.C.F.D." Most that have retired are now passed or feeling the years of dedicated work that they put into the "D.C.F.D." As the department of current times, how can we stomach to forget what the "D.C.F.D." really means to all of us. To some the "D.C.F.D." might be just a name, but anyone that has ever had the opportunity to serve under the "D.C.F.D." knows, deep in their heart, what it means to change that acronym to anything else. It means that we are forgetting about anything that we have ever stood for and anyone that has given their life or a lifetime to the most powerful city, leading the greatest nation in the world." 
    The above was written by a member in a blog and represents what most of us feel. To some the traditions of our job run very deep. The honor of working for a department we consider to be the best, known internationally as DCFD means something to us personally. It is part of us. It represents who we are and why we do what we do.
    I will not place the name of the author of the above blog until speaking with him/her, but I am more than proud to work with people that hold such a high regard for our profession and its history. Less we forget history and tradition created this department and has continued to move us forward throughout the years. Men/women show up hours early for work because it is tradition and respected amongst our peers. They will work until exhausted and bleeding because it just what we do traditionally. We spend our own money on the up-keep of the firehouses to keep the tradition of pride in companies (saving the citizens a lot of money). These are things done without thought. Not to mention many more things guys/gals do out of tradition.
    Everyone in the country knows when you need and ambulance you call the fire department. We know that. The citizens of DC know that for sure. We don't need to change one of the few things left we have pride in to know our mission includes EMS. There are less than 100 EMS only employees left in DCFD (FEMS). You expect the men/women in the majority to except change to honor less than 10% of the work force so they feel like equals? Give up everything for the minority?
    I challenge city council and the chief to ask 100 people in the city if they know what FEMS is and then ask if they know what DCFD is. See which one they recognize and associate with the fire EMS Department 

  • Mr. Knowitall

    Prince George's Fire and emergency medical services Department = PGFD not FEMS
    District of Columbia Fire and emergency medical services Department = DCFD not FEMS
    FDNY = Fire and EMS
    LAFD= Fire and EMS
    Chicago Fire Department (CFD) = Fire and EMS
    Baltimore City Fire Service = Fire and EMS
    Why can't the "DC Fire Department" be just that with Fire and EMS as their job? If we have to come-up with a letter for everything we respond too we might as well have: "oejdhfgvrgdyebeg" on our shirts.
    Changing from DCFD to anything else is fiscally irresponsible and disrespectful to anyone that has ties to the 140 year old department…. Unreal!!!

  • Anonymous

    FEMS? what about Hazardous materials, Aircraft Rescue Firefighting, Trench Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Confined Space, Fire Investigations and every other branch of the FIRE DEPARTMENT we arent gonna start running around with  DCFEMSHAZMATARFFTRSRCFFI on our backs. Just Keep it simple DCFD

  • DC Fireman

    What's in a name? DCFD…FEMS….. If you have to ask that question you have never worn or earned your place in this fire dept. DCFD, a 140 years of tradition is something that when you wear those letters you remember and respect things such as Cherry Rd, Kennedy St, and every other fallen brother lost on this job. Sept 11th, Good Hope Rd, and 4th st. 2 piece Engine Companies, Heavy Engines, and a time we only had 4 ladders in service. light blue shirt's, bed time pajamas and medical tape held us together and nothing would would keep us from doing it all. Today we are lead by individuals who have never respected our name. They probably never will. Our pride is stronger than any uniform policy. We serve everyday never expecting any graditude. Why, because we love our jobs. Because we respect our jobs. Because it is not a job…. it is our life style….we are DCFD. Changing our name doesn't bring about unity. Changing our name doesn't show we are more than the fire dept. Changing our name shows us that you have never been part of this dept. Your time will be short. You will never be part of tradition, and rest assured you will never be…… DCFD.

  • Rickey Reilly

    Wasn't DC FEMS the prostitution ring allegedly run out of a fire house????

  • Anon

    The Chief has been one of the least respected officers ever to come through the department for many reasons.  He was appointed by an old family friend and he is going to extract his pound of flesh from the department to satisfy himself that he finally won.  He got one over on everyone. Well yippee!  He'll trip up again as he did several times in the past but this time EVERYONE will be watching.  His intimidating actions can only last so long then he can retire taking the pension he earned, partly while serving as Chief of Sarasota and simultaneously maitaining his status as a DCFD DFC.  That was quite a stunt put together behind the scenes.  Didn't the paper point out he was bilking the DC taxpayers out of more than half a million dollars he would not be entitled to because he was not yet 50 years old? Chief claimed ignorance that it was wrong but anyone with basic morals knows the difference between right and wrong.  Actually I think he knows the difference too but he is one who chooses based on whether or not it suits his or his friends needs.. Sleezy is everywhere but in the end, it never prevails.

  • Brokenhearted

    We're not DC FEMS we're just FEMS now.

  • bill

    Welcome Home Kenny………hahahahahaha and no one liked Ruben?????
    Glad I am gone…………

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  • Anonymous

    Realize that the main spark that ignited this fire was Kenneth Ellerbe's politcally drivien motivation to change the patch Dennis Rubin reserected.  Dennis Rubin took the patch that originally adorned the fire engines in this city and put an ems spin on it by removing the hyrdrant and adding the Rod of Asclepius. This patch, found on many of the uniforms currently issued, has the US Captiol in the center. Ellerbe's issue is, and I quote, "Disrespectfull to the citizens of the District of Columbia."  He feels that it only represents the Federal Govt.(because of the Capitol) and not the residence of the city.  The disrespect resides in a patch that represents a Govt. which taxes the citizens of the city, without even giving them equal representation.  Sound familiar?
    The reality is the move is not based on branding EMS, it is rooted in an attempt to use this Dept for personal political rhetoric , and or that of this administration, and or the representation on the hill.  
    As far as the changing from DCFD to FEMS, or DCFEMS, it has nothing to do with making the citizens more aware that the members of this Dept provide EMS.  Belive me, they already know who comes to take them to the hospital.  Its not to make the EMS only employees feel like  more than a 10% of the Dept. as they too have to go and spend thier own money but all new uniforms. 
    The only thing I can postulate fom these actions is three possible motivations.  First, the man that showed him the door out of his own city allowed for DCFD to exist.  Two, with budget cuts coming, he has cast some type of shadow to keep the members attentions away from the bigger issues.  Or three, his changing of DCFD to FEMS allows him to show that he can make an impact on this Dept.  Perhaps he may have come to some personal understanding that he cannot infact live up to the promises made during his comformation hearings?  Perhaps the OT and budget issues may be more than he thought he could handle?
    P.S. Yes Rick, it was the DC FEMS scandel as reported in the news.

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  • DCFDmember

    The DCFD has it's name officially changed to DCFEMS (and now is just referred to as FEMS) back when Otis Latin was the fire chief.  Otis Latin wasn't even a true DC firefighter as he was a chief that was hired from the outside.  It's a shame that an outsider was able to do that to the department, but it's even a greater shame that this outsider's renaming is still in existence and hasn't been changed back to it's 'proper' name.  He also changed the patch, though even with the name change and the patch change to reflect the EMS part of the agency's mission DCFD was always still respected as the traditional name of the department and was always allowed to be worn on the member's clothing items.  
    "It is what it is", and everyone worldwide (but especially the citizens of the city) still know us and refer to us as the DCFD.  When they have an emergency which our agency would handle, they call 'the fire department'.  And that isn't going to change in their minds, so why try to mess with something which is a proper way of referring to our agency and one which everyone universally accepts/understands.

    As for our members respecting/embracing the EMS part of their jobs, they are doing that.  Part of why they do that is to respect/represent the DCFD which they are so proud to say they are a member of.  But look at the EMS delivery right now, and it's been better than it's ever been before in this city.  It is that way because firefighters have taken their role as EMS providers and applied that great work ethic and pride to carrying out that mission.  Yes, most prefer riding a piece of fire apparatus than an ambulance, most prefer going to fire calls vs. EMS calls, and many will complain sometimes about EMS issues.  But don't mistake that for them not respecting their responsibilities nor mistake those things for how they carry out their duties.  The members are living up to the great traditions of the DCFD in doing all aspects of their jobs very well and with a lot of pride.

    • Anon

      Pretty much hit the nail on the head. 

  • WFDT

    I've always been partial to "Fire & Rescue" myself.

  • Anonymous

    This guy is a joke period… He talks about doing stuff for the better of the men and the department REALLY. The only thing you have done Chief is manage in 60 days to try to completely destroy the morale of the men, and a legacy built over 140 years. U were obviously only a DCFD fireman on paper anyone who has traditions and dedication running through thereblood would never think about pulling the crap u are!!!

  • Anonymous

    Help us.

  • Anonymous

    Of all the issues facing the Department, THIS is what the Chief is focusing on?  It's not uncommon for a new Chief to try and make his mark on a Department this way…you see it all the time.  Sadly it is a waste of time, money, and resources that repeats itself with every new appointee.  Not to mention it infers that the citizens are…well, stupid.
    Hang in there boys…you were, are, and will always be DCFD.  You just have to wait out the next Chief who should be coming along in what? 3-5 years?

    • Gillian

       "Of all the issues facing the Department, THIS is what the Chief is focusing on? " AMEN!
      If only our leaders today understood how important and what a fine line it is to walk; to carry on traditions while evolving and changing and staying ahead of the game.
      I feel for my brothers and sisters in DC (and PG!), ya'll are upstanding individuals and have opend your firehouses to us when we have visited from the deep south. We we shocked at your graciousness as that hospitality would not be extended from any of the major FD's around our home. ( I am ashamed to say.)
      I pray you find a peaceful and rapid solution to this problem for the good of DCFD and the people it serves! May I suggest duct tape and permanent markers? Oh and I kinda like the look of DCFEMSHAZMATARFFTRSRCFFI from armpit to armpit on the back of the coat ;-)

  • Firegeezer

    Come back in 20 years and you will see that the citizens will still be calling it "the fire department."  No DC, no nothin'.

  • Mr. Knowitall

    Well, one thing is for sure….. Of all the BS and bickering we all do, at least this tragedy (our new management) is bringing us all together and making us united again. Kind of makes me proud when you realize how tight knit the D.C.F.D. still is…….

  • Lt. SJB

    The politicians (yes department chiefs are politicians) are ruining a job which has survived through years of traditions and history.  The tradition, history, logo's, and emblems are a badge of honor.  Calling a department FEMS (also slang for feminine) will not increase EMS productivity or create a good feeling that makes DCFD members embrace EMS. 
    As a Lt. in a COG department that borders DCFD, I see the overall morale in the area at an all time low in the firehouses because of budgetary problems.  I try to remember no matter what, I am still a fireman and it is still the greatest job in the world.  But, when changes like this come from within the department, it feels like a kick in the face that has no reason other than to make some chief look like he effected some great change. 
    I hope the DCFD members continue wearing the DCFD logo and force the chief to rethink this stupid change.

  • Rich

    "DCFEMS"… the first time I heard that I laughed for almost twenty minutes straight! What a joke and an insult to the work force. The whole "name game" thing is nonsense, ask any first grader – they will tell you it's the "Fire Department" plain and simple. Then they will laugh at you too. Phraseology like "FEMS" is an inside message that is lost on the public, our all-important "customer". It means nothing to the average citizen. 
    I recall one suburban county that briefly changed it's name to "EMS/Fire/Rescue Department". They were not and are not much on fighting fire anyway, so maybe that was appropriate, but I digress…
    The public understands that in Washington, D.C. the fire department provides Firefighting, EMS, rescue, fire prevention, hazardous materials response, etc… There is no need, in fact it is counterproductive to hide the organization's identity and core mission in some goofy acronym.

  • Barney Miller

    AND- at the most recent testimony in front of the Public Safety chair, I think he said " I consult labor on any policy changes that affect operational members". No COOOOOlaboration on this one,HMMMMMM? Was this a knee jerk reaction? AMAZING that you take a person to a TRAUMA RECIEVING FACILITY who are trained to recognize TRAUMA, they don't DO THEIR JOB (8 weeks of EMT Class trumps 8 years of Med School) and the wake is felt by the people who
    BRAVE the cold
    Brave the heat,
    manage disasters,
    show up early 365,
    take additional tasks that our employer shoves down the ladder,(hydrants, smoke detectors, public EDUCATION etc.)
    maintain smiles and good nature for the public,
    act with precision, accuracy and speed to extinguish fire without REGARD FOR SELF
    maintain government property with MINIMAL EXPENSE
    OH WAIT that is my job…and my identity is DCFD!
    Call me what you will, but I’ve never been called for a deputy’s conference, received hours, or tarnished the “Family Name”!
    My resolve is stronger than that of average men, I have taken a noble calling to be a FIREMAN. My integrity will not be compromised by your “well thought out RECCOMENDATIONS” by a committee trying to avert a lawsuit. SOLVE THE PROBLEM, educate your people, treating us FAIR and JUST will EMPOWER ALL to preform far beyond anyone’s expectations.
    “Pimp’n ain’t easy” 

  • NotAgain

    Do you want to be considered in the same way that Few was? A buffoon that lost the troops with in weeks of taking over? You are there are already unless you turn it around. Is it ok to just have a small core of loyalists believe in your policies? If you don't think you've brought people together on common grounds who haven't been previously you are mistaken.

  • Anon.

    Get it? These are all very well known and very respected Fire and Emergency Services Departments. And right there at the top should be DCFD, not FEMS!
    As the Fire and EMS service provider for the nation's capitol they should be leading the nation's forefront in technology, protocols and patient care. Not ridiculousness. These service providers should be the top firemen, EMT's, and paramedics in the country. They should be the men and women that other firedepartments look to. Just as President Obama leads the countries politics from the White House, the DCFD should be leading the nations fire and EMS protocols from Vermont Avenue.
    Why isn't this new Chief considering the families of these firemen while he makes these outlandish uniform decisions? Who's going to pay for all of these new FEMS uniform pieces? Who's going to buy my husband a new uniform coat and hat this winter, so that he doesn't freeze to death while he works hard to rescue the lives and homes of the citizens of Washingon D.C? Right. I forgot. Our family is responsible for re-purchasing his winter gear, job shirts, and every other uniform article he needs. My kids will go with less this winter to apease the minds of the non-fire, EMS workers.

  • Anoym.

    Take a moment to e-mail the council members, the mayor's office and fire chief's office.  I did this last night and actually got an e-mail from one of the council members from his blackberry – it goes right to them.  Lay out the facts and make noise about this!

  • Captain Charlie

    Az in ine

  • Stephen M. Reid

    FEMS only refers to Fire and EMS; however, the DC Fire Department (DCFD) provides many more services than just those two.  What about Fire Prevention and Fleet to name a couple.  How does the Chief plan to address them?  The citizens of Washington, DC recognize the department as the Fire Department and has for many years.  The constant renaming is nothing more than a cover because the administration has no idea of what they are doing.  If this is the crux of their agenda, the firefighters and the people they protect are in big trouble.

    • Anonymous

      Are you available for hire when this clown is gone?


    white t-shirts, come winter time don't buy a new coat or sweat shirts to keep warm, wear your nasty dirty ass running coat in to peoples homes on every response, this clown will be gone soon enough…..he can't take DCFD from me, because it's tatooed on my leg

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  • Brokenhearted

    This firechief doesn't even know what staffing levels we run on our apparatus.  On top of that he didn't fight at all when mendelson suggested a reduction in staffing levels.   Watch the latest budget hearing, you'll see what I'm talking about.

  • Anonymous

    It seems highly unfair that firefighters, who have purchased their own uniforms, now have to throw them away and purchase new uniforms at their own expense. If this initiative is so important the cost should rightly be picked up by the DC Government. Of course that might not go over too well with taxpayers. It sure sounds like government waste to me.
    What happens when the next fire chief has a different idea? Another wardrobe change? That could get expensive.

  • Anonymous

    Home Run Dave!!!!  

  • Harvey Glick

    GREAT Job Ellerbe……What a wing-nut…….

  • Guppy

    I saw this in another forum and I agree. DCFD has agreed on FEMS.

  • Anon

    Everyone in the department needs to sign a petition of a no confidence vote for ellerbe and gray. Get them out. Stop wasting money on stupid things like changing the patch and shirts. lets buy new apparatus things that the citizens of dc actually can use.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, he took it a step further by lying to Mendelson under oath. He stated that this Dept has always run with 5 man truck companies. Phil asked Ken if they have ever had 4 man trucks in the city. His response, never! I am pretty sure Ken has more than 20 years on the job. And unless he spent his entire career in an office, he has to be aware of the 4 man truck company era.

    He knows, he’s just a liar. He’s even lying about the real reasons behind the uniform change. Every word that comes out of his mouth is carefully crafted and with malice intent.

  • In The Hood

    Doesn't seem fair that the Fire dept. only gets one letter in the name ("F") and EMS gets three!  This is crazy.

  • gravefan

    What happened to tradition , of.BcoFD and we would never change that to BCoFEMSD

  • Anonymous

     Anyone who pulls out their wallet to buy a "FEMS" article of clothing seriously needs to have their head checked. If the chief is so image conscious, wear FD issued items only. If they get stained or torn make sure you present the proper image by getting replacements. If the issued uniforms are too hot or cold, make sure you take care of yourself by reporting and getting evaluated for any problems they might contribute to. Keep "DCFD", get rid of Ellerbe. 

  • Terry Miller

    I think FEMS is truly awful.  And it wasn't Otis Latin that did it.  It was the Williams administration when they standardized all the different agency names and the upper echolons, for reasons unknown, decided on FEMS for Fire/EMS.   It doesnt' give any clue as to what "FEMS: actually is, and it pretty much obliterates "fire" and firefighters are the vast majority of the employees. 
    There is absolutely no reason to stick with that crappy accronym and the administration should something else that is inclusive, if it can't be DCFD, and that is not offensive to Fire/EMS personnel.. 

    • Anonymous

      Actuallly Ray Alfred was the Fire Chief, Whilamena Rolark was the city council member who introduced the legislation and I believe Sharon Prat-Dixon-Kelly was the mayor

  • DCFDmember

    "And it wasn't Otis Latin that did it.  It was the Williams administration when they standardized all the different agency names and the upper echolons, for reasons unknown, decided on FEMS for Fire/EMS."
    It was during the Otis Latin tenure when the department was officially changed to the "District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department" (DCFEMS or DCFEMSD, for short).  He also had the patch changed to reflect that.  Maybe during the Williams administration they shortened the acronym DCFEMS to FEMS for how the agency was listed on the government's records, as the city has an acronym for every agency for it's communications so they don't have to always write out the entire agency's name.

    But the name DCFD started using FEMS in some sort as the city's acronym due to a change in the agency's name under Otis Latin.  Though, it may have evolved some since that time.

  • ChiefsAFem

    Ellerbe spent alot of time in a recent posting defending himself agains the claim he is a vindictive person.  He actually pulled open the f_cking dictionary to define it for us.  Something about getting back at one who has caused harm to him – and only one person has harmed him and that was supposed to satisfy us.  Ok. He only used the first acceptable definition – Here's #2 from Merriam-Webster… intended to cause anguish or hurt, SPITEFUL.   Ellerbe – you can split hairs and play with semantics all you want but you are a VINDICTIVE man knowing how this FEMS crap makes the members feel – you don't give a sh_t!  You do not deserve the stripes you wear.  And for those who want to give him a chance – what ya think now?  Some of us have been around about as long as this guy and we watched his shenanigans over and over and over and over and over again.   Vindictive people are always LOSERS.  Where are all his fans now?  Come on out guys, defend FEMS.

  • DCFDmember

    "I am pretty sure Ken has more than 20 years on the job. And unless he spent his entire career in an office, he has to be aware of the 4 man truck company era."
    Actually, the current FEMS chief spent the majority of his 27+ year career in administrative positions.  If he had done a lot of time 'on the streets' he may have a different opinion about t-shirts, polos, sweaters, etc.  And back when he came on the job the firefighters didn't ride the ambulance like they do today either which at times can be a very different experience than just riding a fire engine/truck.

  • Anonymous

    The comments are together in defined Tradition and Professionalism. FEMS is nothing more than a superficial group of Letters which clearly donot speak of any true sense of what DCFD Tradition has always been. One of the Nations most Respected Fire and EMS Organizations has now become the victim of what can only be described as a senseless action of no redeemable measured value. One can only wonder why the Fire Chief  spoken up vocally about the operations at OUC? The recent 14 minute delay in Dispatch/Response was by any Standard a total screw up. If the Chief is so concerned about Identity why doesnot he go before the Council/Public Safety Committee Chairman/Mendolson and lay out specific reasons and the why, whynot, when,where, how,who Tax Payer Dollars are spent. The mere idea/thought of this outrageous waste of Money can/should be addressed as the Nation's Capitol Professional 140 years of Hard Dedicated Work is slowly being deteriated. FEMS and no Standards at OUC to ensure a 911 call is recived,processed and units Dispatched in a timely fashion. to date one innocent sole sacrificed, due to incompetence and a Basic Body of Knowledge in understanding the Geograhy within the District of Columbia Boundaries. ie; In today's Society the DHS (Dept Homeland Security) is working to assist Local Jurisdictions in any event of a Terror Disaster. The DCFD has been,working all along to continue to reassure the Taxpayers of District of Columbia are Protected and DCFD is  Highly Trained and prepared. Ellerbee and Mendolson wake up,where are "THE PRIORITIES"
    Thank You

  • DCFD Employee

    What does it really matter all of us should be THANKFUL to have a good paying JOB weather it say DCFD or FEMS on the back,  you can go to property and get a free button up shirt  that doesn't have any writting on the back.
    And all you new guys with less than 10 years on should shut your mouth.
    When he leaves the name will get changed back.

    • Anonymous

      FU DCFD Employee!

    • anonymous

      DCFD Employee – Even if you can live with the new name (which was just an adminstrative acronym for interagency communications and also a feminine hygeine product in france), … or return of the old (tombstone) patch – its not the patch change that matters as much and is pissing us off as much as the mandate to take off DCFD, and not be allowed to use the existing gear or have station pride and station patches.  When Rubin changed the patch, he did not make us throw out the tombstone or reskin all the older apparatus, or get rid of station patches – he realized that was an uncessary expense to the citizens and members and agreed to let us keep what we had ,  and when we needed new gear it would have the new patch on it…. what Ellerbe is doing is UNREASONABLE and unfair to the members…. and meaning less to the citizens…  the Rubin era patch actually represents Fire and EMS and the pride of DCFD and the NATIONS CAPITAL – whats the big deal?  …just cuz you have more than 10 years on dont make you right either, AND you just DISSED all the new ALL HAZARDS employees big time.   Either way, this is designed to take our focus away from what is REALLY important – the collective bargaining agreement, our retirement, our overtime, our 24/72, our freedom to live where we want.  Come together now or watch it all go down the drain to blue plains!!!

  • Anonymous

    The City Counsil should step in and mandate that no one man can change the name of the Department. It shall be written into law that the agency is known as the District of Columbia Fire Department DCFD. You dont see the police chief's changing the name all the time. Phil Mendelson please step in and do the right thing.

  • Anonymous

    Hey DCFD Employee, it is interesting that you say we should all be thankful we still have jobs. An official department memo just came out and said that he is looking into cutting 400 positions. I guess you may get your wish for “us guys with less than 10 years.” How is DC acting like times in this city are so bad when we are one of two cities in the US with the housing market in the green?

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  • Anonymous

    DCFD Employee, I guess grammer wasn't part of the entrance exam when you came on.

  • oldhead


  • Anon

    How come the Chief isin't posting on here like he does on other websites??

  • anonymous

    DCFD Employ,
    You think that I have to have at least 10 years on the job before I can speak up for myself? 10 years?! So folks with anything less should just shut up and take it, huh? 5 years of service to the citizens of DC means nothing to you? Just to let you know, probation ends after your first year (or 18 months for some of the new guys).

    And I did go to property. I thought I would replace shirts that had holes and buttons missing. I took 4 shirts and was told they could only give out 2 and no short sleeves until April 1st. Why not give me what I need? Do they not have enough to supply everyone? Maybe the Chief should have thought of that. And the shirts I was given had the "Ruben patch" on it. They gave me new patches but I have to pay for them to be put on OUT OF MY OWN POCKET! If that is the case, then just let me wear the DCFD t-shirts that I have already payed for. And that "free button up shirt" isn't going to be all that comfortable in 90+ degree weather on a fire ground or on a medical in a home with no A/C. Where are you assigned that you don't have to put a turnout coat on or where every home is a comfortable temp?
    Speaking of assignments, most guys on the job find a sense of pride in where they are assigned and like to display it on them somewhere. This goes right along with morale. Trying to take company pride out of the job is just another jab at an already low morale.
    And yes, I know that his Order has already been held in abeyance for 120 days but I'd still love a response from you DCFD Employee. But maybe you stopped reading after I said I only have 5 years on the job.

  • DC Fire Department


    A fire chief who left the department with an agreement that allowed him to "be shared with"  another department, all so he could try to illegally collect over $600,000 in additional retirement, while not paying taxes on his "home" in DC because he was living in FLA and his "accountant was supposed to do it", now has the gall to:
    Change the traditional patch as a matter of "DC  pride" simply because there is no DC flag in it
    Change the name (and pride and tradition) associated with "DC Fire Department" by taking DC and Fire Department out of the name. (So much for "DC pride I guess)
    Suggest changing the schedule to punish those who dare to live outside (or simply can not afford to raise families inside) the city they put their lives on the line for every day they come to work (under the guise of budget concerns)
    Suggest not reducing overtime by simply letting engines, trucks, and squads run out the door short staffed despite decades of research that show doing so is more dangerous and less effective.
    Ironically, none of these things will improve the department. The name and patch changes have no positive effect whatsoever, will end up costing thousands of dollars to "rebrand" all apparatus, fleet vehicles, and officially issued gear, but will destroy morale among the members of the department. Layoffs and short staffing will do nothing but make it harder to do our job and will offer only obstacles to overcome, not tools to be more effective. And while "rebranding" to "include" EMS more may sound nice (and be easier, not to mention cheaper than actual improvements), the only way to truly improve EMS would be to improve the actual training provided, holding providers to a higher standard then they are currently held, finding non-punative ways to improve the skills of those whose previous poor training leave them in need of improvement, improving the quality and availability of classroom based and hands on EMS based continuing education provided to the department, instead of relying on hands off, internet based slideshows, and actually finding a way to get all of the drugs and equipment that we need to actually even be able to carryout our own current protocols.
    And when he does order those layoffs, maybe he can use some of the money he made in pension while working in Sarasota before his little scheme was discovered to pay for the food for the children of the employees he laid off. When someone's house burns down because the closest companies were all responding short staffed, maybe he can use some of the departmental "savings" to rebuild it for them. When someone dies because staffing rules mean the response time for adequately staffed  units is increased, hopefully he will be able to avoid a costly lawsuit. And when one of our brothers/sisters (a concept Im not sure he even understands since it isn't in the order book) loses their life, hopefully he will give a nice eulogy and honor their willingness to sacrifice their life for our budget.
    As a matter of reality, nothing will change. No matter what he does to try to destroy our pride, no matter how much more difficult and dangerous he makes our job, we will continue to respond as we always have, putting our lives on the line and providing the highest quality Fire suppression and EMS care we know how for the residents and visitors of the nations capital. After all, we will be here for our entire careers, fire chiefs come and go. Hopefully when he leaves, we can get someone in charge who actually cares about their men and the job they do, not a corrupt, vindictive budgetary yes man who knows nothing else but how to say yes to the mayor to which he owes his job.

  • Mike

    Where is the Rube when you need him?  Haha

  • Anonymous FF

    San Francisco Fire Department
    Los Angeles Fire Department
    Chicago Fire Department
    Fire Department of New York
    All examples (and there are plenty more) of fire departments rich in tradition who somehow manage to include EMS into their agencies mission without feeling the need to change their name and/or uniform every time a fire chief sneezes. What purpose does changing the name and official patch serve? It will not improve EMS service. Only better training and resource management will do that. It will not change the "culture" of the department. On the contrary, it will only serve to demoralize even the large number of members who fully embrace and excel at their EMS role. It will not save money, but instead it will actually cost the department thousands of dollars that could be put to much better use elsewhere.
    But the real kicker is that it in addition to costing the department money, it will cost the members money out of their own pockets to remain in compliance with the new rules. If the department actually issues t shirts, rain gear, winter gear, hats, etc like most departments do it would be one thing, if they issue it it can say whatever they want, but the department does not do that.
    So what are my options? I can spend hundreds of dollars on new "compliant" t-shirts, rain gear, and winter gear, or I can swelter in the summer under a non NFPA compliant button down, get soaked in the rain, and freeze in the winter.
    The department would tell you I can simply wear my turnout gear in the rain/cold, but I would rather not wear such a smelly, smoke and grime covered jacket into anyones house, and I sure don't want to wear it in the pouring rain, increasing my chances for steam burns If I happen to go to a fire before it can dry.
    I will wear whatever they issue me regardless of what it says, but if I am spending so much as a dime out of my own pocket I guarantee it will be keeping with tradition and proudly continue to read DCFD on the back.

  • Anonymous

    You all are a bunch of  cry babies!!!!!

    • anonymous

      "You all are a bunch of cry babies!!!!!"
      There isn't anything more specific that you want to say? Anything about how this would be good for the department or citzens?
      No?! Ok… Thanks for the input.

  • Too Old To Work

    From what I've seen DC Fire/EMS/Your Name Goes Here has much more serious problems to correct than what to be called. Maybe they should spend more time, money, and effort in correcting the horrible patient care we keep reading about. Otherwise, they will likely continue to be known by the name "The defendant".

  • Anonymous

    ""You all are a bunch of cry babies!!!!!"
    There isn't anything more specific that you want to say? Anything about how this would be good for the department or citzens?
    No?! Ok… Thanks for the input"

    What would "be good for the department or citzens" is for you to continue to do your job regardless of what it says on the back of your t-shirt. "Don't take my t-shirt" "Don't take my patch" "Don't take my shorts" wah, wah, wah,  
    Remember that long line you stood in to get your "Dream Job"? To fulfill your "Calling"? Well all of the people that were standing with you who didn't make it would love to step in and take your place and wouldn't care hat it says on the back of their t-shirt or patch.
    Cry Babies

    • me

      Remember that long line you stood in to get your "Dream Job"? To fulfill your "Calling"? Well all of the people that were standing with you who didn't make it would love to step in and take your place and wouldn't care hat it says on the back of their t-shirt or patch.
      They should have studied harder and scored better than me if they wanted it that badly.

  • Anonymous

    He told Mendleson trucks "never" ran on 4. I'd be interested to know Mendleson's thoughts if he found out that Ellerbe, himself, cut trucks from 5 to 4 when he was interim chief following Tommy Tippitt's retirement. Sounds like he'd be caught in a blatent lie!
    "Chief" Ellerbe…I once saw a youtube video where you said you were going to "level the playing field". What you HAVE done is bulldoze the stadium and sell the team!

  • Anonymous

    They could change it to Burtonsville Fire Dept

  • Anonymous

    Those two hatters from Burtonsville are no longer at Burtonsville, they all quit since they were told they had to follow the rules.  Bam Bam (Jerry Engles  little retarded tattoo brother) you suck.,and all the other idiots from BVFD that quit.    

  • Bruce

    Look at it the bright side – In gay circles, FEMS are the feminine, or bottom partner in a relationship. The department formerly known as DCFD may become national leaders in outreach to the gay community, not mention the firemen making some new friends. 

  • Guppy

    Fire and Emergency Management Services

  • Anonymous

    me says
    They should have studied harder and scored better than me if they wanted it that badly.
     Your screen name says it all…….it's all about ME!!!

    • Me

      me says
      They should have studied harder and scored better than me if they wanted it that badly.
       Your screen name says it all…….it's all about ME!!! 
      I guess that makes you, using your logic, a nobody.

  • Anonymous

    I guess that makes you, using your logic, a nobody.
    And that makes you…….a cry baby.

    • Me

      I'm curious how you reached that conclusion. You were the one crying about how the dumb people deserve a job.

  • Anonymous

    The criticism in comments posted does speak of some merit. However the bottom Line here,is the Fire Chief has mased a decision. Whether or not it is believed or perceived as a revenge tactic against what Chief Rubin did is really not important now. The one issue at hand which can,and in all probability may/can create some confusion with on scene operations. By that One is referring to Washington DC is and has always been a Federal City. This is one of the critical issues that has stalled in Congress in allowing District of Columbia the well deserved State Hood. Ok now, being a Federal City obviously the central Federal Government has quite a few Fedseral Buildings/Facilities within DC. With today's society of unrest and possible Terroist Acitivities the Federal Government has and will deploy Key Personnel and Operational Agencies in any event of ant type of Structure Fire, suspected explosive devices and the like. ie; FBI-ATF-FEMA- and now FEMS. this can cause confusion with misunderstood/misperceptions of on going Decisons by those in Command. When/not if the media recognizes the respective agencies and similar I dentification ie; FEMA/FEMS there is the issue of something occurring where perhaps any direction ordered may result in a loss of Accountability. These issues may apprear unimportant on the initial onset. One can only hope that strict direction/orders are forth coming to avoid any distraction with Identification. Also the comments about Burtonsville VFD  are obviously spoken by a loyal IAFF Person. Those comments are completely out of line and uncalled for.
    Thank You

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  • Anonymous

    Me says

    I'm curious how you reached that conclusion. You were the one crying about how the dumb people deserve a job 
    Never cried…..not once. Nor did I state that anyone deserved a job. I stated that there were many out there who are willing to take your place. Looks like you're the "dumb" one.

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  • DCFDmember

    The re-branding is a bad idea.  The way things have been working well in recent years regarding the agency's name (DC Fire and EMS), it's acronym (DCFD), it's patch, etc.  All this did is cause division and controversy where there was none.  
    Even if the chief wanted to go back to the former patch, that isn't a big deal.  Though, do it like we've handled changing patches before where the replaced patch gets phased out.  In the past you could still wear the old patch for at least a certain period before it could not be worn anymore.  I don't know what the time frame should be, but a year would be reasonable so the members can get more wear out of all the things they paid for to wear at work.  Sometimes when the department changed patches they wouldn't change them on the existing apparatus in the fleet and would only put the new patch on any new apparatus.  That also saved money from having to change over all of the vehicles in the department's fleet.
    The re-branding won't affect they way the members do their job (other than the aspects which can be affected by lowering the workforce's morale).  The firefighters have accepted the fact that EMS is a part of their job, and they are doing a good job at carrying out their EMS responsibilities.  The firefighters are responding to calls quickly, they are taking care of the EMS units they ride, they are providing good medical care, they are treating the patients well, and they make sure they get back in service in a proper amount of time from the hospital.  Some think that we must change the name to make the firefighters accept EMS and do that part of their job well.  But that is a fallacy as the firefighters are already doing that.  

  • pipenozzle

    Why not change DCFD to DCED, meaning District of Columbia Emergency Department.  That way employees could take a magic marker and easily change the F to an E on their uniforms.  But your point about the public being confused is the best reason not to proceed with the name change.  In the city of acronyms, FEMS could be mistaken in DC for a lobbying group.  FEMS is a bad idea.  A very bad idea.  

  • Old Guy

    Feel fresh…feel confident……..use FEMS . Now available at your neighborhood CVS


    Will the Chief be referring to himself as "Chief FEMS", "Chief of FEMS", or "FEMS Chief"?

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  • Anonymous

    FEMS = FU$@ EMS