As you already know, being a firefighter is a physically demanding and potentially dangerous job. There’s no doubt that safety is the number one priority across the board. That’s exactly why fire departments set station guidelines for grooming and uniform requirements.
You may or may not be allowed to have long hair or dreads as a firefighter. Firefighters are almost always prohibited from having beards. Most fire departments have strict policies when it comes to grooming habits, but it really depends on each fire department’s policies.
Before we get to the specific guidelines that your fire station might have, we’re going to briefly go over why these grooming policies are created in the first place. Even though you might not agree with them, it helps to learn about their background.
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The Reason Behind Grooming Policies
So, you’ve been growing your hair out for years. In fact, you can’t picture yourself without your hair as long as it is now! Unfortunately, being a firefighter means maintaining safety at all times, so it’s pretty likely that you’re going to have to cut your hair before your first shift.
Because your hair is your pride and joy, it’s completely understandable that you find these guidelines upsetting. But, these guidelines were developed for a good reason. We’re going to go over the basic duties of firefighters, and the impact grooming can have on your ability to do your job.
The Duties of a Firefighter
So, you’re a little bothered by the fact that you might have to cut your hair. However, let’s first take a look at what you might be doing during your shift that might better explain why you’ll need to keep your hair, beard, and mustache short.
- Wearing equipment. As a firefighter, you’ll need to wear a helmet, hood, jacket, and tons of other equipment. If your hair is too long and not contained too well, it might get in your face or even stuck in something. So, long hair can be a huge safety hazard.
- Responding to calls. There’s no doubt about it; firefighting is a tough job. When you’re responding to calls, absolutely nothing should be holding you back. Stopping to brush your hair out of your face or readjust your equipment can make a huge difference in your ability to respond to an emergency.
You might be used to your hair by now and know how to contain it, but being a firefighter requires you to do tons of things that you’ve never done before. That means that right now, you have no idea how well your hair will stay in one place when you’re on a shift.
Why Grooming Matters
It’s pretty clear that good grooming habits can help to keep you safe on a call. It’ll also guarantee that you’re able to provide the best care to those in the community that you’re helping.
Yet, there are other reasons your station might have grooming policies.
Let’s say you’re a civilian calling in an emergency. A fire truck rolls up, and the firefighter that comes to greet you looks like he hasn’t trimmed his beard in five months, hasn’t brushed his hair in a while, and looks greasy.
As a firefighter, you’re supposed to act and look professional. You want the community to trust that you’re good at your job and can help them.
You represent your station, so that’s why your chief might implement these grooming habits.
Firefighter Grooming Policies
Before you go to the local barber and get your haircut, take a step back for a second. Though it’s possible that you’ll end up cutting your hair when you get the job, there’s still a chance that your station doesn’t have such strict grooming policies.
Your station might not have any policies about hair length at all! Even so, we’re going to quickly go over whether or not there are set guidelines on the national and state levels. Then, we’ll prepare you for what to expect if your station does have grooming policies regarding hair length.
Are There Set Guidelines?
Let’s start with the basics. There are currently no federal guidelines that say that firefighters can’t have long hair. National firefighter guidelines only restrict certain types of facial hair (this is to ensure firefighter SCBA masks get a good seal to protect your lungs).
However, that doesn’t mean that your station doesn’t have its own rules. Any guidelines that aren’t regulated at the federal level are typically left up to the department. As there are no federal guidelines on facial hair, grooming is one such example.
What is interesting to note is that the hair length guidelines usually do not apply to female firefighters. So, if you’re a female firefighter, don’t think that you’ll have to cut your hair before being assigned a job (but you will most likely be required to keep it up, off your collar and out of the way).
What Are the Usual Guidelines?
As we just said, it really depends on the station that you’re working at. If your station does have grooming requirements, here’s what they might be in terms of hair length, color, and style.
- Hair length. If your station does have length requirements, the limit is usually the top of the shoulders, and you can’t have bangs that go past your eyebrows. Longer hair might have to be contained with a bun or ponytail.
- Hair color. For the most part, fire stations don’t allow firefighters to have any “unnatural” hair colors (purple, blue, green, etc.).
- Hairstyle. Most stations require a “clean”, professional hairstyle that doesn’t get in the way of any tasks you’ll have to perform or equipment you have to wear. This may or may not include dreadlocks (dreads).
Do Firefighters Have to Be Clean Shaven?
There’s also a pretty good chance that your fire station will have a few extra guidelines regarding your facial hair and other grooming habits, though they probably won’t require you to be totally clean-shaven. Here’s a look at what those policies might be.
- Beards. Many stations require a clean-shaven jaw. This is partly about looking professional, but mostly to ensure your SCBA mask gets a good seal on your face, to protect your lungs in a fire. This is an OSHA requirement.
- Mustaches. Mustaches are usually okay, but you’ll need to be able to show that you’re able to use any type of breathing apparatus without your mustache interfering.
- Sideburns. Most stations prevent firefighters from having sideburns that extend past the bottom of the ear. This is pretty standard across the board.
Remember: These are only general guidelines that have been seen in some fire stations across the country, and there are no guarantees that these are the exact guidelines that your station will follow. It’s best to check with your station first! Some other departments will have much more relaxed grooming guidelines and may allow for long hair, so check the requirements when applying for firefighter positions.
This article on Firehouse.com provides more information on firefighter grooming policies.
There are no federal guidelines that state that firefighters can’t have long hair. But, there’s a pretty solid chance that your fire department will have its own policies regarding hair length. Here’s what you should expect when it comes to grooming policies.
- Your hair shouldn’t interfere with any equipment you must wear or any task you must perform.
- Your hair must be contained and neatly groomed on a daily basis.
- Facial hair shouldn’t be long enough where it gets in the way, but most departments don’t allow beards for safety reasons.
- Your sideburns shouldn’t go past your earlobes.