Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Red Cap.... Finally

Many Departments chose their helmet colors with care, or at least with a purpose. There's White, Black, Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, and I am sure a few more colors. In each Department, those colors have meaning. I have never seen a Department that doesn't use White for Chief Officers, but after that, it varies widely. In our county some Departments use Red for Firefighters and Black for their Line Officers, in others it is just the reverse.  Blue is frequently for someone who is either EMS or EMS and Fire. Yellow is sometimes Firefighters, but in some Departments it is for Probies. Sometimes Orange is for Probies or Juniors, sometimes it is Fire Police.
 Whatever the color chart is, every Firefighter and Officer knows what it is and has it ingrained in their brain. Many times that make decisions or speak to people based on the color of the helmet, especially when the heat is on. You learn the colors of the mutual aid companies and treat them accordingly. All with respect of course, but within their particular designation.
 When you are working mutual aid, you use that helmet color to tell you what level of responder you are talking to. To be honest, it's the only time I wish I had the correct Helmet color because I don't always get the consideration I deserve from Chiefs that don't know me too well. On the other hand, as my own Chief said the other night, "If I get a guy that shows up on MY scene and he doesn't know who UU is, then I don't really need him, and I am not sending him in on one of my crews, because I know he doesn't get out and take much training."
 In my Department, it is White for Chiefs, Red for Line Officers, Blue for EMS, and Yellow for probies and Juniors. We also have Green for the Department Safety Officer, but that hasn't been used in a few years.
 I have served as an Officer for about 5 years now. Each year, when elections are over and the new young guys get elected to their first office I watch as the Chief scurries around to make sure they get their Red helmets, whether new or passed down, he wants to make them feel like an Officer. I get that and I think it's the right thing to do.
 I've never had a Red hat. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be a priority for the Chief, and I have never asked why. The guys and gals all respect me and know who, and what I am so it never really mattered to me. I liked my Black hat, it fit well and had my light on it. I think the Chief assumed that I liked it the way it was.
 The other night we were looking at a pile of old gear and there was a Red Hat in the pile that had seen a lot of work. The Chief picked it up, twisted it around, and said "You know, this is Captain Georges old helmet, it has seen a lot of fire, but it's still good. We could put this on a truck as a spare. It is kind of raunchy though."  I looked at him and said "Chief, I've been holding an Officer's position for 5 years now, do you think I might like a Red Hat? I think I can clean that up a bit and put my head basket in it." He handed it over with a smile, "You're Overdue".
 So I took the thing home and cleaned it up. It looks nearly new, OK not too old. I swapped out head baskets, face shields, and hung my light and shield on it. It'll work.
 I've never been a big one for 'the trappings of the Office', but sometimes people need to know who (or what) you are.

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