During the training sessions I have been running recently, I speak about the importance of wearing the appropriate attire when working in incident management roles. For most, this will be a uniform, but for non-uniformed personnel this is likely to be ‘office attire’. Looking around the room you can see some confusion about what I mean when we talk about the standard of dress needed in IMTs. Eyes dart back and forth, checking to see how they are dressed in comparison to others, brows furrow slightly as they think back to if they wore their ‘good’ shoes and coordinated belt. But it isn’t what you wear so much as it is how you wear it.
Taking pride in your appearance is an important element of setting the tone for the environment in which you are managing an incident. It may seem inconsequential to you, but to the community that is affected by the consequences of the incident, seeing scruffy people working in the background of a media conference has the potential to have a significant impact on their trust in us to make decisions about their safety.
Liaison Officers from other emergency services organisations and supporting agencies will be judging the state of the IMT as soon as they walk through the door. Whether we like it or not, ripped jeans and coffee stained t-shirts can give an impression of disorganisation and chaos, even when the work we complete is top notch.
Unsurprisingly, when researching this topic further, many sites stating ‘What to wear to make a good impression’ were aimed at women. But the gender stereotype that women should worry about ‘dressing for the job you want’ more than men does not apply in incident management. The community don’t care if you’re male, female, transgender or other. The impression you give them is the one that they will take. When working in an IMT, instead of dressing for success, or for comfort, try dressing for trust instead.