Things have been really heating up the last several months on the topic of various media outlets and the fire service.
The latest story featured on Statter911 is here: http://statter911.com/2010/10/28/is-it-time-for-firefighter-social-media-ethics-courses-texas-firefighters-nude-pictures-are-the-latest-online-trouble/ Several other links to previous articles are featured from Houston, Baltimore, and others depicting problems with video, pictures, and the like.
I personally am tired of this, certain things departments do have control over. If they do not want me taking pictures on duty, or facebooking, tweeting, or anything else like that while they are paying me then fine by me they pay me, I listen to what they say. However when they begin to infringe on my private life then I have an issue. If I feel the need to post nude photos of myself on the internet then so be it, as long as it’s not on duty then they have no say over it. Now should I expect some backlash? Sure if they can not discipline me for it then they will surely find someway to make sure you know they do not like it, and that is there prerogative. If I am a good employee (my “hobbies” do not interfere with my work), and I make sure I am not doing these “hobbies” on company time then they should have no say in what and how I spend my time.
Now the picture and video taking issue. Again If they do not want me to take pictures or video on duty, while I do not agree with this I have no choice but to comply they make the rules and no matter how much I disagree If it does not put me in harm’s way, or is illegal, immoral, or unethical I do it. I do however think that we lose a lot of valuable training information by not allowing this. A few years ago a few guys on my old shift bought a “Fire Helmet Cam”. We used it several times and were able to capture some incredible training footage of actual events. Now since the cams are “outlawed” by SOG we have lost a lot of good training footage, one that comes to mind is a house fire were a VES was made by the truck company at my old station. A chief officer called it one of the most picture perfect VES entries he had ever seen, and guess who documented it? NO ONE! So instead if I want to show a rookie a video of VES I have to use a department that probably is not similar to us, instead of using footage with people, equipment, and buildings that this rookie might actually see and use. I personally think that is a travesty.
Now do some people take it to far? Sure, even I on occasion when I used to have a Facebook account probably took things to far with my own opinion, and even though no one could punish me for it, “they” will find a way to make it known that “they” are not happy. Here are some tips that I have found helpful in dealing with these things.
1. Off Duty Only: If you are taking pictures, video, facebooking, tweeting, myspacing, or whatever make sure you do it off duty. I do not blog on duty, nor did I Facebook on duty when I had one.
2. Be friends with your friends: You should only allow your real friends access to your personal pages. Before I deleted my Facebook (which may be coming back in the form of an Average Jake Version) I was friends with everyone in my department, that was until something I said was used against me, after that I learned my lesson. Look you can like your boss, you can hang out with your boss, but at the end of the day they are your boss and you can not be friends with them. There are bosses all the time who have parties and invite people and I do not go to a lot of them, because of the fact that if I slip up will they hold it against me later. Keep business business. Again I am not saying you can not like your boss or even have meaningful conversations with them, but when the top Chief of your organization sends you a friend request, I start to smell a rat.
3. Follow you departments procedures: This kind of piggy backs on number 1 but this is the best way to stay out of trouble.
4. Take tasteful pictures and videos: Try to take pictures of scenes that you would want taken if it was you or your mother involved. If you are going to send your pictures somewhere look at them first and try to mark out any identifying characteristics (license plates, faces, body parts, etc.)
5. Do the right thing: If it does not seem right, then do not do it. This is a tough one because unfortunately when it comes to this right and wrong are based in individual morals. Again ask yourself if you would want a family member displayed in this way? If the answer is no then you should probably not even take the shot, and definitely should not send it out.
Well that’s all I have got for now, if you have any questions comments of concerns then please feel free to leave them in the comments section. By the way do nto forget about the Firefighter Netcast radio show tonite. Tonite is featuring Art Goodrich and hsi show “The Voice of Reason”. Show Starts at 9pm eastern time http://www.firefighternetcast.com/2010/10/october-28-9pmet-the-voice-of-reason/ Show page: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/firefighternetcast/2010/10/29/voice-of-reason-current-stories
Hope to see ya tonite on the netcast, and please spread the word about the blog!