Our dept. is looking for information to compose a Standard Operating Guideline for posting pictures, video of fire and wreck scenes to firefighter's Social Network pages, Youtube, etc.

We do not want to forbid it but we are trying to create a guideline that would have all fire dept. related audio and visual material be approved by a committee or by the officer designated by the Chief before the material can be posted to the internet via Youtube, Social pages etc........

If anyone has info on a guideline their dept. uses please let me know.

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The whole freedom of speech thing for most could be messy... But if it's a fire department which for the purpose of this discussion post is a public agency, there are some significant legal issues to think about including HIPPA. Failure to comply with these requirements can mean fines and media nightmares if someone posts something inappropriate.

To me, it's a wax-on, wax-off issue. Either firefighters can or cannot post multi-media to the internet. Getting into the position of being internet police is not the best use of time for our company or chief officers. I for one would not want to be responsible for one of my crew members posting something on the web. If they are off duty, and using their own personal computer, I personally don't think anyone has the right to tell someone what they can or cannot do. But in the case of sharing photographs from incidents, it bears some additional thought and discussion.

If this is considered an issue to the point where you are concerned enough to post this as an overhead question to the FFN public then I would say nip the issue in the bud and have your department PIO handle any release of photographs to the public.

I went to a seminar once where this was discussed. The question one has to ask themselves before posting something on the internet is whether a reasonable person would find the comments, actions or things discussed offensive or rude in anyway. If you are not breaking these common sense rules, and even providing positive imagery of the department then maybe you might consider allowing department personnel to post whatever they wanted.

But here's the problem... Let's say that you have someone who posted photographs of an incident. If there are ever any legal issues or questions as to what the fire department did or did not do, well, your the one who posted the photographs and some possible legal issues enter into the discussion. This is why many departments I presume will tell you that officially, they don't condone firefighters posting photographs or incident information. This is intentionally left to the public information officer who clears any releases with a chief officer before they are published.

Good luck with your decision. I look forward to hearing what you decide to do as well as hopefully what others have done in their departments.

It would be cool to see others reply on this discussion post an answer to the following:

Do you allow members of your department to post photographs or incident information?

Do you not allow this, but instead, channel all public information releases through the department PIO?


This should be interesting to find out and discuss further. I hope you find my comments and suggestions helpful.

TCSS,
CBz
We have a policy regarding that. That no accidents may be posted where victims or the licence plate may be shown.
This is a trickey issue...On one hand there is freedom of speech and expression and on the other hand is personal decency and Fire Department issues. We do not and should not air our dirty laundry in a public forum...these are issues best left at the Firehouse. I don't say it is right (Although I believe it is) We need to understand that as Firefighters and EMS providers are held to a higher standard...the public looks to us in their time of need...they do not need to see us bitching and gripping in a forum about issues that happen at the Firehouse. To me that constitutes conduct unbecoming of a Firefighter. If you cannot find anything better to post...then maybe the site isn't worth the efforts in the first place....Paul
We have not had issues with people posting inappropriate material but with the coming age of helmet cameras, cell phone cameras, etc we would like to have some type of guideline in place before it becomes an issue.

I have seen pictures posted on this site as well as other sites from firefighters showing things being done unsafely which directly relates back to the Fire Department as well as may open the department up for some type of legal liability.

I would like to see if other departments may have a guide already in place that we could use as a model.
I don't see this as an issue of freedom of speech/expression: Any picture/video taken while on department time (paid or vollie, in this case there is no difference) belongs to the department.
In my back woods small VFD the Chief also serves as the PIO. With his concern for liability he does not allow any member to take photos at scenes and demands we direct all media personnel to him. Expections are offical photos taken by him or a delegee for training purposes and are kept within the department. He keeps it simple and limits liability.
My department has a standing Chief's Order. We are not to post images, videos, or stories on the web, or private sites, ie: facebook, myspace, etc. As the PIO, I have more latitude in releasing news or images to the media, and the Chief Officers have the trust in me that I will not say or do something out of line. I will as a courtesy, submit items to them for their approval before submitting.

Legalities aside, one should be prepared to become a witness in court, have any and all images and or documents subpoenaed if you take photos of the scene, vehicles, people, etc. Whether you were actually involved in the incident, when an insurance company or plaintiffs attorney become involved (and they will), so to will you.
Fire Dept. websites and fire dept. facebook pages have been the "IN" thing as well as social networking sites like firefighternation, I know as a firefighter i do enjoy looking at pictures of other fire scenes on websites as well as training and videos to get ideas from. There has to be some way to create a guideline that can be put in place for fire dept. personnel to adhere to........Oldman the "standing Chief's Order" is that in writing and is there disciplinary action that can be taken against the firefighter if they do not adhere to the "Chief's Order".......
With a guideline in writing the fire dept. would then have the grounds to discipline firefighters that do not adhere to the guideline.
I do know that a guideline will not relieve the dept. of liability if a member does post pics that may violate HIPPA regulations but ti definitely would not hurt to have a written guideline in place.
Hey Todd,

Taking a little time to research your community, I see your population has a population of 183,000, not a small town at all... The Calcasieu Parish flow chart does not identify a public information officer which is good for you but it does identify legal counsel. I wanted to mention the importance of taking the extra step to get input and approval for whatever you decide to help protect your jurisdiction from whoever handles this. Typically, it doesn't cost a dime to your department and it is definitely something you want to do to CYA.

If you do not have a designated PIO, then I would strongly suggest to your department to use your training officer (and assigning him or her to work two roles) to be the contact person (and PIO) who receives any audio visual media from both the public as well as your personnel. This not only ensures that a company officer controls media releases, including all fire department related documents, announcements, information, or any graphics including any photos, videos or audio media. Typically, the training officer works with chief officers directly, which provides management to have control of the above. An advantage to having data and AV materials sent to the training officer is the ability to archive and use these materials for future training and departmental presentations.

CBz
Very good idea....If we can come up with a written guideline it will be submitted to our Legal counsel to review and/or change to provide the most protection for the dept. that it can.
Our dept. has a designated PIO which is the District Captain.......I am a captain also and have been tasked by the chief officers to come up with a rough draft of this guideline. To complete the draft i was looking for other departments that may have a guidline in place that i could use as a reference material while i am completing a rough draft......Our dept. is also in the process of getting a website designed which the PIO and i will both be administrators and will be responsible for uploading content to the site..........so some type of guide needs to be in place so that dept. members don't upload to the web (Facebook,Myspace,etc.) pics that have not been approved by the PIO or myself.
This issue opens a lot of discussion due to the facts of freedom of speech, HIPPA Regulations etc. , I do not want to infringe on those rights and would like to draft a guide that will be professional for our legal counsel.
One way we got around this was a website that was developed by our local that limits access and viewing unless the administrator (sounds like it would be you) gave permission. You've seen those sites before. This is one way for the firefighters to be able to post their photos and for the department to limit access to protect the HIPPA, privacy issues at hand.

CBz
That is awesome idea........what happens though if the members decide to post to social sites the pics your admin. does not approve......do you have a guidline on that?

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