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'm sure we haven't heard the last of this one.


http://www.texas-fire.com/2009/10/26/helmet-cameras-banned-by-houst...

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I can't seriously believe anybody is surprised by this. The "upcoming" generation has grown "up" on myspace, facebook and youtube. There seems to be fewer and fewer boundaries. People will post some of the most personal, intimate crap in public spaces.

So it certainly comes as no surprise that people will upload video of an incident without any thought whatsoever towards propriety or privacy. They've grown up in a glass cube and feel they have the right to share anything and everything with everyone and if you don't like it, whatever!
FOX REALITY TV / It's all coming with the new show Orange County Fire Academy
In ten years it will all be different! Society changes, people don't!
My department has a policy that bans helmet cams, cellphone cameras and etc. IMHO the outright banning of helmet cameras is counter productive and short sighted. One argument being brought forward is that firefighter's may be too focused on being a camera man and not being a firefighter. That is a problem, a discipline problem. Which if as a chief you can't handle maybe you need to find a job as a manager at McDonald's. How bout the you can get entangled argument? Better take that light of your helmet...it'll kill you. HIPPA!!!! You cry. Editing is you friend, I say. Will cameras be misused? Yes. And any member that misuses a camera or post material without going through some sort of approval process should be disciplined. Helmet cams can greatly assist in after action critiques, can be used to help increase our skills, help with cause/origin/arson determination, and other uses. Exactly how long do some of you think it will be before integrated cameras are part of PPE. Chiefs can monitor each FF, his actions, and the conditions around him (not mention micro-manage) on each and every structure fire. In vehicle cameras will be used to determine how apparatus operators are doing their job, and to determine the condition of the fire building as was when the first due company arrived. Of course if you still don't want them around don't worry about you guys, worry about the public. We interact daily with a public that has the capability of photoing, videoing, and posting our actions before we even return to the house. I know that we can't control the actions of the public but we all need to be aware that whether we know it or not you could already be on YOUTUBE.
In my experience, if you can see clearly enough to see then there's not a lot going on nor much opportunity for training, with regards to fire. I've watched some of these helmet cam videos, the perspective is simply not good enough for training, the head bobs and weaves and the image bounces around, again not much in the way of training. Now, if you want some good training footage then the person with the camera has to be aware of where and what he is looking at. Not the best frame of mind (pardon the pun) for a firefighter, instead of concentrating on the job at hand he is intent on making sure he 'gets' the best/right/coolest footage. So much for situational awareness.

Just because a toy comes along doesn't mean that it has to be incorporated into the fire service and on the job. And I have to think that the Chief of IC has more important things to do then watching what his FF's are doing inside, that's not his job. And yes, the public does have the ability to film us and post it online and there's nothing we can do other than keep them back. We don't need to compound the situation with FF's posting their own videos/images online.

It only takes one video, or even just one photo to open up a shit storm for a department. Why even risk it by allowing helmet cams? It's easier to ban their use/possession unless authorized and supervised by the department. Personally I think the deal is that those that have/want helmet cams want them so they can impress their friends. Kind of the wrong approach to the job in my opinion.
Jonathan, that was pretty long, but I'll try to answer one thing at a time...

My department has a policy that bans helmet cams, cellphone cameras and etc. IMHO the outright banning of helmet cameras is counter productive and short sighted. Actually, it's a safe and farsighted decision, and well-thought-out.

One argument being brought forward is that firefighter's may be too focused on being a camera man and not being a firefighter. That is a problem, a discipline problem. It's not just a discipline problem, it's a distraction for every firefighter who has a helmet camera.

Which if as a chief you can't handle maybe you need to find a job as a manager at McDonald's. The Chiefs in Houston, Baltimore, and elsewhere DID handle it - they banned the cameras. Interestingly, I don't see them applying at McDonald's.

How bout the you can get entangled argument? Better take that light of your helmet...it'll kill you. Most helmet lights are mounted on lightweight helmet bands that easily pull off or break if entangled. There are some heavier lights, but they're more expensive and obsolete compared to lightweight LED and similar lights. The helmet cameras are much bulkier and more securely mounted to the helmet, so the don't break away. Additionally, having light can keep you from getting injured and improve the safety of operations. Having a camera is a distraction, as noted above.

HIPPA!!!! You cry. Editing is you friend, I say. Editing video footage to erase HIPAA violations has another name in a court of law..."destroying evidence" or "obstruction of justice". That can be a felony if the case goes to court. Is the helmet camera worth a prison sentance?

Will cameras be misused? Yes. And there's the problem. If the department doesn't allow the cameras at work, then they can't be misused.

And any member that misuses a camera or post material without going through some sort of approval process should be disciplined. How are you going to issue meaningful discipline a firefighter or medic who just cost your department a multi-million dollar lawsuit due to something the video caught? How do you trust EVERY firefighter and medic to have the judgement to know what's appropriate and what's not? How are you going to keep every personal video off of the internet prior to the approval process? The answer - you can't if you allow the cameras. The way to prevent those issues is to not allow the cameras in the first place.

Helmet cams can greatly assist in after action critiques, can be used to help increase our skills, help with cause/origin/arson determination, and other uses. Very unlikely, because the camera usually bounces around so much the viewers get nauseated, the video quality is usually very poor, and if there's an interior attack, you can't seen anything but black smoke on camera...just like what you see through your mask. I keep hearing how valuable helmet cameras are for those uses, but no one has given a single specific example of how a helmet camera has been useful for anything other than for self-glorification of the cameraman on YouTube or other internet video site.

Exactly how long do some of you think it will be before integrated cameras are part of PPE. Given the fact that the liabilities far exceed the benefits, I'd say "never".

Chiefs can monitor each FF, his actions, and the conditions around him (not mention micro-manage) on each and every structure fire. The chiefs need to be monitoring the big picture from outside, not watching a blacked-out smoke screen from the interior.

In vehicle cameras will be used to determine how apparatus operators are doing their job, and to determine the condition of the fire building as was when the first due company arrived. In vehicle cameras are not helmet cameras, so that's a different topic.

Of course if you still don't want them around don't worry about you guys, worry about the public. We interact daily with a public that has the capability of photoing, videoing, and posting our actions before we even return to the house. I know that we can't control the actions of the public but we all need to be aware that whether we know it or not you could already be on YOUTUBE. The fire chief doesn't employ, supervise, or have liability for the actions of the public. The fire chief DOES employ, supervise, and have liability for the actions of the firefighters and medics. That's why the best answer is to leave videoing the scene to dash cameras and/or official department videographers, and leave the firefighting and patient care to the firefighters and medics.
Actually, it's a safe and farsighted decision, and well-thought-out.
In your opinion it maybe. In others it's another blanket policy that only looks at the negatives and none of the positives.

It's not just a discipline problem, it's a distraction for every firefighter who has a helmet camera.
It is like any other piece of equipment, it is simply there. The actions of a firefighter is/are a result of discipline. A good firefighter will do his job it doesn't matter if the camera is rolling or not. The one's that present problems are the ones that lack self-discipline and lack leadership.

The Chiefs in Houston, Baltimore, and elsewhere DID handle it - they banned the cameras. Interestingly, I don't see them applying at McDonald's.
Your making the assumption that some of those Chief's are actually leaders. They didn't "handle" the problem, they just made it go away. Welcome to management 101.

Most helmet lights are mounted on lightweight helmet bands that easily pull off or break if entangled. There are some heavier lights, but they're more expensive and obsolete compared to lightweight LED and similar lights. The helmet cameras are much bulkier and more securely mounted to the helmet, so the don't break away. Additionally, having light can keep you from getting injured and improve the safety of operations. Having a camera is a distraction, as noted above.
Have you even seen a helmet cam? Arguably the most common used is smaller than most 4AA flashlights, and is mounted to the helmet by a piece of plastic. A little research goes a long way. The majority of helmet cams, including the new FCII, weigh in around 8 oz. about the same as the majority of "helmet lighs". No savings on weight there. By the way the FCII includes 6 leds for flashlight operations. There goes that pesky working safer issue. I know the mounting issue, right. Wrong most helmet cams can be either hard mounted or mounted with a strap just like a flashlight.

G-O-O-G-L-E is all it takes
Couldn't have said it better.

Editing video footage to erase HIPAA violations has another name in a court of law..."destroying evidence" or "obstruction of justice". That can be a felony if the case goes to court. Is the helmet camera worth a prison sentance?
I'm not a lawyer but I did drive by a holiday inn express. It's only a crime if the original footage is actually destroyed. If it is archived then no harm no foul. In either case both of us are simply assuming. Unless you are actually a lawyer. I'm gonna guess your not.

And there's the problem. If the department doesn't allow the cameras at work, then they can't be misused.
Sure they can. Some members can still "sneak" a camera onscen, record operations, and post them. The only difference is the punishment if they are caught. I have no allusions as the human nature. Tell some people they can't do it, and they are going to try it anyway the punishment be damned.

Very unlikely, because the camera usually bounces around so much the viewers get nauseated, the video quality is usually very poor, and if there's an interior attack, you can't seen anything but black smoke on camera...just like what you see through your mask. I keep hearing how valuable helmet cameras are for those uses, but no one has given a single specific example of how a helmet camera has been useful for anything other than for self-glorification of the cameraman on YouTube or other internet video site.
Perfect example to follow.
Didn't appear to be self-aggrandizing in that vid. Looks like alot of good training points throughout the video. How are they valuable? I used the above video last shift day to review OVM and Roof postion task with my tailboarder. I've used other video to help with "reading smoke" and fire behavior. I've also used the videos in WWYD scenarios. All have worked out well and have helped immensely.

Given the fact that the liabilities far exceed the benefits, I'd say "never".
Never say never.

The chiefs need to be monitoring the big picture from outside, not watching a blacked-out smoke screen from the interior.
Absolutely no argument here at all. Chief's need to be focused on the overall aspect of the operations not glued to the monitor. On the other hand if video feeds allow for the Chief to gather more effective information on interior conditions, how the line is being advanced, and where his FF's are that would be a good thing right? Again the equipment is a tool, it is up to us to use it to our benefit.

In vehicle cameras are not helmet cameras, so that's a different topic.
Their are some striking similarities between the two. Both can record events for future use. Both can be used for us and against us.

The fire chief doesn't employ, supervise, or have liability for the actions of the public. The fire chief DOES employ, supervise, and have liability for the actions of the firefighters and medics. That's why the best answer is to leave videoing the scene to dash cameras and/or official department videographers, and leave the firefighting and patient care to the firefighters and medics.
Some departments actively employ photographers/videographers to record FD operations. Those photos/videos can be used for and against us just as can helmet cams. How do they control what pictures and/or videos reach the public? Why not use those same procedures when it comes to helmet cams? Is it really that complicated?

My department currently doesn't allow for helmet cams. Hopefully one day that will be changed and a policy can be created and enforced that will allow for on scene filming with administrative oversight. I believe helmet cams offer us a unique perspective and opportunity. We could use these videos to show the public what conditions really are inside a structure fire. To reinforce our message of smoke detectors save lifes and exit drills in the home. We could expand it to present the public a first person view of our job and what it entails. We can utilize the cameras to share information to members that were not on scene. We can use it to critique our on actions, use it to perfect our skills. The arguement that it could be used against in a lawsuit is assine. Are you doing something so wrong as to be sued? If not then you have nothing to fear. In fact the very helmet cam that you despise could be used to absolve you and your department of any wrongdoing. That would be a postive, wouldn't it. Worrying about whether or not a helmet cam can be used against you is ridiculous. What you should be worried about is whether or not your actions or those of your firefighters can be used against you.
You don't have to do anything wrong tactically to get sued...HIPAA, remember.
There's nothing in the helmet cam video you showed that a seperate camera operator couldn't have done a better job of showing.

The video you posted also shows truckies operating in smoke without SCBA and at least one without gloves, and it also shows the helmet being placed on the roof while the hook man vents the rear windows from above...not the best move when the products of combustion can go straight at your now-unprotected head. Was that a "save the camera" move? I don't know, but this video raises more questions than it answers, frankly.

The arguement that it can be used in a lawsuit is not assinine, it has happened, and the department has the right to prevent on-duty members from doing things that expose the department to liability. Where do you think the chiefs that ban helmet cameras got their legal opinions? They didn't pull them out of their hindquarters, they got legal advise from the city attorneys. That advice is "don't let anyone use personal cameras at work" because the downside is much greater than the upside from the legal, medico-legal, operational, and safety standpoints.

I'm also pretty familiar with helmet cameras...we don't have a rule against them, but if any of the video shows up on the internet without the fire chief and city manager's written permission to a written request, it's potentially a termination offense as a violation of our electronic media policy.
I'm also familiar with the fact that there is no such thing as a helmet camera that's approved for structural fire entry by the NFPA, due the the combustible gaskets and wire insulation that go with the cameras.

The issue of department videographers vs. private helmet cams is the issue of control. The FD can control official department videos, but it can't control private video if it allows it at work.

You're entitled to your opinion, but it's not going to change the fire chief's, city manager's, or city attorney's opinions, and those are the ones that count in this discussion.

There's a counterpoint video from the same department as the one you linked...I linked it earlier in this discussion. Look it up and read the subsequent conversation. It makes many of the same points I've made here.
You don't have to do anything wrong tactically to get sued...HIPAA, remember.
Please. Your scary HIPAA stories aren't going to frighten me. You do know that HIPAA only concerns those that bill electronically, right? You are also aware that many municpal offices are exempt from following HIPAA, right? You actually have to be a health care provider or operate in that role for it to take effect. HIPAA the boogie man of the fire service.

The video you posted also shows truckies operating in smoke without SCBA and at least one without gloves, and it also shows the helmet being placed on the roof while the hook man vents the rear windows from above...not the best move when the products of combustion can go straight at your now-unprotected head. Was that a "save the camera" move? I don't know, but this video raises more questions than it answers, frankly.
HOW DARE THEY!!! Did you see the way he dismounted the tiller cab? That one man ladder raise wasn't NFPA/IFSTA/OSHA approved!!! Oh look I can nitpick too.

The arguement that it can be used in a lawsuit is not assinine, it has happened, and the department has the right to prevent on-duty members from doing things that expose the department to liability. Where do you think the chiefs that ban helmet cameras got their legal opinions? They didn't pull them out of their hindquarters, they got legal advise from the city attorneys. That advice is "don't let anyone use personal cameras at work" because the downside is much greater than the upside from the legal, medico-legal, operational, and safety standpoints.
Where? What departments? Post the cases. Substantiate your claim that these decisions where based on previous case law.

I'm also familiar with the fact that there is no such thing as a helmet camera that's approved for structural fire entry by the NFPA, due the the combustible gaskets and wire insulation that go with the cameras.
Please post the relevant NFPA standard on flashlights approved for use in structural fire fighting and the standard on rubber helmet bands also please? The best you will find is a UL listing for flashlights operating in an explosive atmosphere. Bet your lite-boxes don't meet any NFPA standard either.

The issue of department videographers vs. private helmet cams is the issue of control. The FD can control official department videos, but it can't control private video if it allows it at work.
Yes you can, apparatntly your own department controls what is released. "we don't have a rule against them, but if any of the video shows up on the internet without the fire chief and city manager's written permission to a written request, it's potentially a termination offense as a violation of our electronic media policy." So you can't control it? So your FF's ignore the rules set forth by the department.

You're entitled to your opinion, but it's not going to change the fire chief's, city manager's, or city attorney's opinions, and those are the ones that count in this discussion.
And likewise neither does your opinion.

There's a counterpoint video from the same department as the one you linked...I linked it earlier in this discussion. Look it up and read the subsequent conversation. It makes many of the same points I've made here.
Yeah I saw it. Good video. Shows why crews need to be prepared and have flexability.
Jonathan,

I don't have the case law handy, so we'll have to go with "the attorneys are the experts" on this one. That's enough for the fire chiefs in many places including Houston and Baltimore City. I'm not going to look case law up - I'll let you be the firehouse lawyer tonight.

As for HIPAA, lots of fire departments that are banning helmet cameras DO run EMS and they DO bill electronically. Coincidentally, Houston and Baltimore City are two of them.
HIPAA isn't the only potential for a lawsuit.

And...the DC Engine 15 video shows complete disregard for the public's safety while responding. It's a good thing that they didn't hit a car while they were (edited) at an intersection that showed a red traffic light as they entered the intersection.

And no, the firefighters in my department don't ignore the rules. The ones that used to carry helmet cameras no longer do so, by their own choice. We don't have a specific policy against helmet cameras, but as I stated, we have a policy against releasing anything acquired as part of employment, which is the employer's right.

As for opinions, what part of "the fire chief's, city manager's, or city attorney's opinions" being the ones that count didn't you understand? Those clearly are not my opinions.

You only see the positives. Unfortunately, the legal world isn't that simple, their are a lot of negatives, and government agencies have to consider that potiential.

Ditto for safety problems...you might think it's cool to not wear SCBA or whatever, but the firefighter heart attacks and cancer rates tell us that following safety rules is not "nitpicking" regardless of what you think. Neither is running through red lights at controlled intersections or some of the other poor choices that show up on helmet camera video all over the internet.

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