Let’s Hear It For The D.C. FEMS!


I hope you all have a strong cup of regulah this morning. It's cold outside, I didn't sleep real well last night and this morning we learn of the official end of an era.

In case you've been living under a rock lately I'll just fill you in that the D.C. FEMS are not a new team to join that Lingerie Bowl league, although I wish it was. It's what Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe of the former District of Columbia Fire Department has decided, in his infinite and omniscient wisdom, that the citizens of D.C. want to see their fire and EMS department called. Now, originally Ellerbe said that the name change was going to better reflect the entire role of the DCFD and that is was about both missions, fire and EMS. Now it is evidently about what the people really want to see and hear about their fire and EMS department. Where he got this information from I have no idea. And furthermore I sincerely doubt any of the residents of DC really give a crap. Now, I know what you're going to say. "Kenny," you'd say, "if the citizens don't really care in the first place then what's the big deal?" "Who cares what the department's called?" Well, that argument does hold some water but here's my problem with it. You're making a change under false pretenses. You're making a change becuase it's, "what the people want!" Or because, "It better reflects what the department's overall role is." I say, if those are the only two reasons you are making a change, and one that sounds really, really dumb, and you are going to incur monetary encumberences in this time of econmoic downturn and budget crises, then you're an idiot. And probably an idiot who has political aspirations past the fire department. Oops. Was that my outside voice?

To make this whole thing worse there is collateral damage being done to our brothers and sisters in DCFD, er, DCFEMS. I'm not sure if they're on a quarter master system or if they have to pay out of pocket for uniforms and the like but according to my morning copy of The Secret List from FirefighterCloseCalls.com, it is going to cost members between $300 and $400 in new FEMS logo emblazzoned clothing. Any member caught wearing the old DCFD logo will be subject to disciplinary action. I'm seeing a lot of write-up's in the future just on principle. I'd take one happily, gotta tell 'ya. Not to mention that I'm sure they have to repaint all the rigs, change letterhead and a hundred toher things. So what's that going to cost? Maybe it doesn't matter since they're in DC. Maybe the DCFEMS can just raise their debt ceiling and do stuff without regard to budgets. Seems to work in the rest of the town, right?

This whole ridiculous thing goes back to the post I made a little while back I called, "Does It Really Matter? Really?". If you haven't read the post it is still available below. In it I talk about silly stuff that evidently Chiefs and such think is really, really important that really, really has no bearing on our job and our performance at all. Like changing the name of your organiztion to FEMS. Usually these things are done under the guise of better customer service, or representing the people you serve better or other such silliness. I dunno. As I state in that post, I just think that when people call 911 they want us to show up on a timely manner and perform our jobs well and professionally. They could really care less about what we are wearing our what our rigs say. But to change the name of a proud organization with a rich history to something that sounds so, well, silly under the premise that it's what the people want? How about addressing issues that really matter, where they really matter.

My regulah's cold. I'm gettin' off 'da Tailboard to go freshen it up some.


  • Joe says:

    Im alittle confused, is TK upset that what used to be DCFD, when it only fought fires, is now DCFEMS which represents what the department does nowadays both Fire calls and EMS calls?
    So which issues does TK want addressed? Which ones does TK speak of that "really matter".
    The fact is that Fire Services throughout the country have taken on the role of EMS for a simple reason. EMS is in demand, and Fire is less of a demand.
    Kudos for Ken Ellerbe, he sees the future. An EMS department that occasionally fights fires..

    • Teague Kenny says:

      Joe, you obviously didn’t read the article, or at least all of it. You also obviously don’t regularly read this site otherwise you would know that I am a firefighter/PARAMEDIC and know very well that the modern fire service’s primary role has evolved to EMS delivery in one form or another. What I have a problem with, and what I disagree with, is making a chance for change sake when it 1) Makes no difference whatsoever to the actual delivery of services on the street, 2) Causes monetary damages to the members who had no say in it, 3) Will also cause monetary damages to the organization as a whole in a depressed economy and 4) Is simply done, in my opinion for political grandstanding by someone with aspirations that have nothing to do with being the fire chief of a major metropolitan fire and EMS department. All of these points are clearly pointed out in the post if you would have taken the time to fully read it instead of either just reading the headline and commenting or commenting from a narrow minded opinion as you did.
      Next time read the whole article

  • Joe says:

    But I think you are in fact missing the point, which is why I started my comment with pointing out some confusion. I did read your article and I do read the site.
    You say it makes no difference to the actual delivery of services delivered. You are right, but you thinking within the box. Step out of the box and think alittle more. To you the name change is useless and perhaps meaningless. If it is then it shouldnt matter.
    Causes monetary damages to members, you say? Well, perhaps members will have to buy new patches, I dont know, if they do, its a little expense with patches nowadays running around $4-5 each. Maybe the union should have addressed this with the chief, so the department could provide the patches.
    Will cause monetary damages to the organization?? Really?? Every time there is a change of any administration in any capacity there are expenses that are incurred. This is part of doing business. If the Mayor has no problem with those expenses, dont know why its burning a hole in your mind.
    It may very well be political grandstanding, or perhaps a change to provide the correct perspective of what a modern department the DC Fire and EMS service has become and the name change to reflect that.
    Im not narrow minding, Im thinking about the whole idea, its you my friend that are narrow minded into putting your thoughts against what amounts to expanding thought and the name change to show the new department.
    Perhaps its you that needs to read what he wrote again, with an open mind and see what it is you are trying to get at and the point of your idea. By the way, to call someone an idiot, like you did in your original post of a person who commands the department, simply cause you disagree, gives you little if any creditbility on the capability to deliver a thought, that disagrees with that very same person.
    Exersize some proper writing skills, put your thoughts down, and the point of your article. I got that you are simply annoyed that the name is being changed and you see no point of it.
    Thats narrow minded….

    • Teague Kenny says:

      Ok, Joe. Took a time-out, went shopping with my family thought about what you had to say.

      1) $4 – $5 a patch. Ok, but as I stated TSL gave a quote of $300 – $400 a member. Where that figure came from I admittedly don’t know. TSL gave examples of sweatshirts, shirts hats etc. In general, stuff you can’t really just take patches off and reapply and have them look decent. Not to mention a lot of things are embroidered. Again, as I said, don’t know if they are on a quarter master system or what. But if I had to shell out a few hundred bucks I’d be pissed. Now, if the department is covering the cost, as you say the union should have negotiated for, that’s a few hundred bucks a guy/gal times a few hundred employees? To me that equals a waste of money for something that is completely unnecessary.

      2) Anytime there is a change in administration there are costs. Agreed, changing letter head, business cards etc. Personally I think each FD’s letterhead should just be generic and not have everyone’s names all over. It’s a waste. But in this case, it wasn’t a change in admin. That already happened when Ellerbe took over. So now there’s going to be more costs to re-do things. For what? So they can look like they’re so progressive as to include EMS in their title? Waste.

      3) Modern perspective of what DCFEMS does. Ok, great. Again, who cares? If thats the case then the organization’s name should be the DCFEMSHMTRDARFFFP and another hundred or so letters. That of course stands for District of Columbia Fire, EMS, Haz-Mat, Technical Rescue, Dive, Airport Rescue and Firefighting and Fire Prevention. C’mon Joe. In todays modern fire service you can say Fire Department or District and pretty much everybody knows we take care of it all.

      4) Ken Ellerbe the idiot. Listen, I am not Dave Statter. I have no formal training as a journalist so if that’s what you’re looking for I’m sorry to disappoint. I am an opinionated firefighter who likes to write. So, in my opinion, a guy who works a secret deal to stay on the District payroll at full pay AND benefits while working several hundred miles away as the fire chief of another department with full pay and benefits; a guy who thinks it’s a great idea to put unarmed and untrained firefighters in high-crime areas as targets, er, deterrents; a guy who has gone on record as stating he wants to cut the fire department personnel size in half while somehow still maintaining the same level of service to the community and level of safety to his members; and finally, a guy who wants to change the name of the department, again in my opinion, for no good reason and incur whatever costs and backlash comes with it, is an idiot in my book. You do not command respect from me. I am not an employee of his so I don’t even have to respect his rank, much less the man.

      5) Sorry you don’t see the point of my article. I’ll try and make it more clear, again. To change the name of an old and well-respected fire department for no reason while incurring some sort of costs with it during depressed economic times is dumb. If it is such a big deal then every department should do it. We could have FEMSNY for New York; Chi-FEMS for Chicago; Bos-FEMS for Boston and my favorite of all- LA FEMS, for Los Angeles. It just rolls off the tongue…LA FEMS.

      6) Am I narrow minded. Yup. I just happen to think that wasting money on this kind of crap while laying people off, decreasing service and safety levels to the public and personnel and doing it in the name of the public good is stupid.

  • Garrett Ricr says:

    Do we have to be “Fems” to work there? I don’t really consider my self a feminist. I thought going from Department to “Fire-Rescue” was bad but boy was I wrong. Good Traditions should be continued. Traditions that don’t imped our job or stiffle what we do should be embraced. I don’t know this Chief but it appears he was brought in for some agenda based on the recent articles involving DCFD or DC FEMS. Sounds like a women’s soccer team. The DC FEMS!!! Stay safe Brothers. Keep your heads up and remember this too shall pass.

  • Joe says:

    Teague, I will admit one thing the name DC FEMS is alittle on the funny side, and LA FEMS is even funnier. 
    Politics is funny, and many people dont understand it. To many, politics is a tough pill to swallow, often plagued with useless ideas, but nonetheless, ideas which signify change, sometimes good some times bad. In NYC, and many cities throughout the country EMS-Fire mergers or takeovers were fueled by a combination of both severe problems in EMS systems and significant reduced function of Fire Departments. To politicians looking to both save money and firehouses it was a great decision. To "traditional" fire departments it was a sudden invasion into the society of firefighters. A secret society loaded with "tradition", in many places a boys club, where many got together at the club house under the cloak of "work". In some areas the nastyness of racial and sexual discrimination showed its face among the older "traditionalists". All of a sudden the boys club was mixed with minorities and women.  
    Now dont get me wrong, in no way does any sarcasm here should be interpreted as a "lack of respect" for the job firefighters do, and the many lives that have been lost in departments throughout the country and abroad. However whether anyone would admit it or not, this is the underlying truth behind the anger displayed by many over the EMS Invasion into the firehouse. 
    DC itself was plagued with many problems that caused the merger, just like NYC. Like it or not, whether it tastes good or not, like some things in life, it happened and is there to stay. Thats the true sign of politics vs true management. Its a game neither you nor anyone else will win, regardless of how funny the name is. 
    In NYC while they didnt change the name from FDNY to anything else, The EMS Command, became a seperate and almost equal aspect of the department, although still foreshortened with regard to benefits and equality.  But again that is politics. The old traditional fire departmet has been slowly replaced by a large percentage of firefighters that came directly from EMS lines. So they eliminated the Me-Firefigher, you ambulance-driver mentality.
    Its a game you cant win, no matter how you try. In my opinion you and others who disagreed with the change, should have again, tried to negotiate and work together with the administration to come to an accord on a much better name, than FEMS. Had you done that, perhaps the departments name could have been something better, that both the department and its "traditional" members would agree upon and still maintain some of its original roots. 

  • EMS Guru says:

    More like a Department that occasionally has a true Emergency Medical Call. 

  • RJ(in florida says:

    im still tryin to figure out how he was chief in sarasota without possessing a certificate of compliance which required by law in florida. the way most get around it is being titled chief fire administrator which is allowable under florida law BUT, you cannot command people in the field. '"SO" if he was not in posession of a certificate of compliance, why was he having any interaction with firefighters at all? if he ever appeared in the uniform identifying him as "fire chief" that in my opinion would be fraud an a overt violation of law

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