I'm one of those that you might catch in the store not smelling so good. I'm on a volunteer service. Because I'm "on call" nearly all the time, I wear my EMS shirts nearly all the time. I can't hardly just sit around looking professional and staying clean 24/7. There's a good chance I'll be on the ambulance after riding my horses or picking up their poop. If the wind is in the wrong direction, I could be fairly ripe by the time the pager goes off. I've stopped in the store in the late afternoon, after being paged out at 2 a.m.; going from bed, to barn, to scene, to hospital, to town 3 hours away and back again without ever having a chance to brush my hair or teeth. I was also on call while taking my FF1 course, and you can bet I was ripe after wearing bunker gear all day in July, but if we'd have been paged, I'd have responded. I probably went to the grocery store after class too - had to fix supper you know.
The moral to my story is that there may be more to why this group of techs looked/smelled poorly. As long as they aren't buying liqour in uniform/identifying clothing, then I'm not going to worry too much about their appearance.
I've only worked with one service, Sedgwick County EMS, that has a policy about this. Their policy, at least as it was 4 years ago, stated that no service identifying clothing shall be worn off duty. This policy was just limited to service specific clothing though. I think that it is more of a understanding that when you wear EMS identification, you should use common sense. Hopefully, one takes pride in their profession and represents it well. Having said that I pose another question. Here in Kansas, legislation adopted EMS License Plates for your vehicle to replace the state plate. This comes a few years after they adopted a similar Firefighter tag. What do people think of this. As you all know, we all respond to car accidents. Now we have to set an example and abide all traffic laws. I think that if you choose to use the Kansas tag, you should be willing to except this responsibility. That means that volunteer EMS and firefighters can't speed to get to the fire or call in there POV. I know a lot of people drink and drive and this doesn't exclude us EMS and Fire professionals. I hope that a LEO won't be leanient on the law braker just because of the tag that's on the vehicle.
Jennifer, you're way perceptive.
EMS folk are schizophrenic in this regard. They want to be recognized, respected, and compensated as professionals. Yet, many don't seem to understand that this won't happen if they exhibit unprofessional behavior and appearance.
This extends to things like:
-Smoking in public while identified with an EMS agency (uniform or EMS-marked off-duty clothing).
-How you speak to people.
-How you write on blogs, etc. (poor grammar, poor sentences, use of foul language).
-Presenting an un-hygenic or slovenly appearance.
That's not how professionals present themselves, on duty or off!
Remember the TV show "Rescue 911"? Once upon a time I was in an airport lounge, and that show was on. A guy sitting next to me, seeing my EMS-affiliated luggage tag, said to me, "You know, you can tell who are the cops and firefighters by their uniforms and equipment at these scenes - how come the EMS (well, he said "ambulance") guys always look like slobs?" And there it was on the 42" screen, a way obese guy in blue jeans that had travelled too far south on his anatomy, a striped T shirt not tucked in (bad visual from the posterior aspect), and a ball hat on backwards.
What to say? If you want respect, you've got to earn respect and be respectable!
And you only get one chance to make a first impression.