What's in a name?

Anne Arundel: Return of the `fire department' title helps to defog identity.

May 10, 1999

A ROSE by any other name might have the same fragrance, but when the smell of smoke is in the air, does it matter whom you call for help?

Apparently so in Anne Arundel County.

Former Fire Chief Stephen D. Halford thought the name "Anne Arundel County Fire Department" gave short shrift to rescuers who did more than fight fires. Mr. Halford, who retired last month, waged a successful effort two years ago to change the name to Anne Arundel County EMS/Fire/Rescue.

The change covered all the bases of his employees' numerous tasks but did not roll off the tongue. Say the name aloud for proof.

Mr. Halford's intent was to include "emergency medical services" and the all-encompassing "rescue" nomenclatures. His well-intentioned rationale was that firefighters are trained as emergency medical technicians, and he made them responsible for answering all rescue calls.

The name change also was meant to convey a better image of firefighters among the public. It was a promotion in stature for workers associated more with heavy helmets, hatchets and hoses than with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

But instead of improving the public's perception, the new name was befuddling. Some residents couldn't get a handle on the elongated title. Even many firefighters hated it.

"The thing about firefighters is, we want to be called firefighters, not technicians," said James H. Edwards, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1563.

So the rapid decision by new Fire Chief Roger C. Simonds to retrieve the conventional title, Anne Arundel County Fire Department, brought an end to the confusion. It's a lesson that many times, it is best to keep things familiar and simple.

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