A firefighter can now be fired for even possessing the camera on duty, and the Captain is responsible for ensuring compliance.
There are those who consider this to be censorship and a first amendment violation. Others are applauding this rule to limit the liability of a department when the feces strikes the rotary oscillator.
My department, while not prohibiting the camera, has instituted a rule prohibiting the posting of incident images on-line, and also the posting of call information, comments about another member/employee on sites such as Facebook.
I knew it was a matter of time before the greatest thing to happen to the fire service would get the axe due to, *Liability Reasons*! Everything in this sue happy world is all about cost vs. risk, the hell with good old common sense!
Just like the internet it too was said to be the beginning of the end and look at it now. Everything in life is about moderation. Using cameras is the greatest tool for training we ever had, now we will get put back into yesteryear again by the bean counters and the ruthless lawyers! Oh Well, The More Things Change The More Things Stay The Same!!!
I fail to see how banning the use/possession of a camera, while on the job in any way abrogates someone's personal freedoms. By that rationale, banning the use of cell phones while on the job would likewise be considered a personal freedom issue.
My department banned helmet cams and banned the display of any photograph not authorized by the department. In other words, NO helmet cams, period, and if you are in possession of pictures taken by anyone while on company time you may not display them. Obviously pictures float around and are exchanged within the department but if any show up on a profile/website etc. and it is discovered, you are in violation.
As for "...the greatest thing to happen to the fire service..." I would count any number of things to fall into that category, helmet cams not being one of them: SCBA, PPE, PASS devices, Training and Promotion Standards, etc. But then, I see things somewhat differently than many others do and I personally think a helmet camera falls into the category of a toy.
I agree completely with HFD's decision, and here's why.
First, any advantage that scene video gives is heavily outweighed by the potential downside.
If a helmet cam video showing anything that can identify a patient is ever shown anywhere outside the department, then the financial, time, effort, and bad P.R. costs will greatly outweigh any advantage a video might bring.
Second, helmet cameras are a distraction. We're supposed to be firefighters, rescuers, and medics, not camera operators. When you're spending your time worrying about how to frame up your next shot, you're being distracted from your job, and you're not pulling your weight. Ditto for cell phone cameras or other digital media while on duty.
Third, if you're going interior in a firefight, you're not going to be able to see anything worthwhile on most of the video anyway.
Fourth, helmet cameras add bulk to your gear. That adds entanglement hazards to your head...a place where you can least afford to add more bulk and irregular shapes.
Fifth, helmet camera cables have combustible cables, gaskets, and other fittings. We've spent the last 30 years getting combustible gear off of our bodies, and now we're going to put it back on so we can get some cool video???
Sixth, and last, video has a lot of visual impact, especially to the uninitiated. Juries are included in "the uninitiated". They tend to be swayed by things with visual impact, even if no one actually did anything wrong. It's a lot better to have your good lawyer arguing with the plantiff's good lawyer about what actually happened than to have their good lawyer spin a video to make it purport to show something that it doesn't. It's going to be tough for your good lawyer and expert witnesses to override the jury's mental picture of what they think they saw, based on video and spin.
If the video doesn't exist, it can't get you our your agency in HIPAA hot water, it can't be spun against you in court, it can't distract you from your job, it can't melt and drip burning plastic down your neck, and the camera you didn't take into the fire can't entangle you in wires or HVAC coils.
Helmet cameras will get you,and your department in trouble faster than you think! If you think their cool, wait until your on the stand trying to explain what the hell happen, that's if you didn't get tangled up in something and made it out alive. They will tell the truth, and nothing but the truth !
Some say they are good for training to show others. Have the others show up for training !
Good move Houston FD.
I admit, I do own a helmet cam. It is somewhere at the bottom of my camera bag. The Chief's were ok with it as an experiment with the understanding that the videos would not be posted online.
I honestly thought it could be useful to document particular fireground actions which could be used in the training environment to either show what to, or what not to do in a particular situation. The idea sounded good, but in reality, the idea flew like a rock.
It is very much a distraction, not only for the operator, but it distracts the crews working because they know there is a camera. Inevitably, one or two members of a crew would try to be in every action shot, trying to do all the work. This often led to freelancing just to be on camera.
From an administrative standpoint, a company or department must be able to establish rules and policies to not only protect their employees, but to protect themselves from litigation should an event occur because these rules were not followed. It could be an even bigger nightmare to say; It's ok to have the cameras, but you cannot post the videos. Integrity, doesn't mean much anymore, and the images would be posted.
I really wasn't surprised to see HFD take this action, but considering some things which take place, and people aren't terminated, I was a little amazed that they are making this a fireable offense. Maybe there's more to this story.
Call me old school but when I played foot ball we always filmed the games to see how we could improve next time. Now I feel like the same could apply to helmet cam footage, we can use it to get a better look at the fire's behavior and how we reacted to the situation.
Some may very well miss the point.
Really; the issue isn't about taking photos or video of a scene, training or otherwise.
It is about THAT information getting out in the very public domain via the internet in most cases.
People are starting to blur the line between personal freedom and PERSONNEL freedom and as long as an employer doesn't violate your civil rights, THEY decide how much freedom you have while ON THE JOB.
This is all because some idiot didn't exercise good common sense.
And we all know what happens when we don't exercise good common sense.
We LEGISLATE it. Make rules for everyone because of a few. Sad but true.
And that is all that this is about.
I applaud Houston. Look out New York, Chicago, LA.
We have seen several examples right here at FFN.
Remember the "training guru" who posted pictures of his department, was in constant contact with his "mentor" and the next thing you know; PooF!
Camera phone is going to destroy our society, I swear.
Just today, I heard you can drive your car from your cell phone and with a small GPS tool can track KIDS with your cell phone.
Where will it end?