EMS and fire are both unique

EMS and fire are both unique

I found “Fire/EMS Merger: An Examination of Cultural Differences” by Philip B. Weiss (September 1998) very interesting. He describes the merger of fire/EMS in New York City. His description of the EMS culture is enlightening, and his description of the fire culture shows good insight.

However, his recommendations for improving the current relationship between the two entities seem to me to be biased and not well thought out. He suggests a “reduction” in the use of the term “uniformed” to describe firefighters as if its use in some way denigrates EMS personnel. However, that is a civil service title used to describe members of certain New York City agencies (i.e., Fire, Police, Corrections). His efforts would be more positively directed to try to have EMS personnel elevated to that title.

He also suggested having “Firefighter” added to the back of fire service uniforms. This is totally unnecessary since firefighters are easily distinguished by their turn-out coats. On one hand, he wants to re-store EMS identity and on the other he suggests identical dress uniforms for EMS and fire officers. He also suggests that a message be sent that “EMS is a separate, distinct but equal part of the fire department.” Separate and distinct, I couldn`t agree more–but certainly not equal. FDNY has a 134-year history full of tradition during which time 767 members lost their lives in the performance of their duties. On what grounds does he make his case for equality?

He further suggests that the best way to reduce cross-cultural tension would be to “order” EMS personnel to ride with fire companies and vice versa. It seems to me that would serve only to produce tension. My contention is, assimilation is not necessary. [What is needed is] mutual respect for the unique jobs both branches of the fire department perform. The best way for Weiss to get the respect he is clamoring for would be to perform his EMS duties well and in a professional manner. I can assure him the “brothers” will notice.

Thomas Farino


Engine Co. 1

Fire Department of New York

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