Is it legal or illegal to photograph fire scenes in southeastern Tennessee areas such as Hamilton County and Sequatchie County? Where can I find the information to back up the answer?

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As a former newspaper photographer, anything you can see from the street or public right of way is fair game. This includes open public events, carnivals, free concerts, etc... It's protected under the First Amendment in the United States and it's been thoroughly tested in the courts

Now, in saying that, if you are photographing people in a fire scene, especially victims of a house fire or a motor vehicle collision, or an EMS call, you have to protect their privacy (HIPAA rules in relation to patient care) which means either not photographing at all or framing shots that won't reveal personal information (house numbers, addresses, license plates) or faces. Additionally, you need to know ahead of time what you are photographing for. Is this for training, publicity, posting on the web or in fire service specific blogs/websites? EVERY department and agency should have a SOP/SOG on scene photography and videography and, ideally, specifically designated photographers that have some training in what to and what not to shoot and why. It's one thing to shoot a car wreck with an instant camera to show ER staff what kind of condition the passenger compartment was in when after you took out the patients, but quite another to take that same photo and post it on Facebook or some social media sharing site.

There are cameras everywhere. Social media allows bystanders to post still images and video footage of what you do on an incident scene AS YOU ARE DOING IT. The last thing you want is to have someone on the inside of that fire/police line tape doing the same thing without some kind of guideline in what should and should not be put out for the world to see.

On some scenes, usually vehicle collisions with serious injury or death, I try to look for the inevitable press photographer and take a moment to chat with him or her. Find out what they are looking for, tell them what shouldn't be shot and why, and respect that they have a job to do, reporting to the public on current events. it's the essence of journalism in a free and open society and it should be respected, but there are also limits. Protect the patients/victims and their families. I usually tell photographers to wait until after we can remove the patients or bodies and they are almost always accommodating. The one's that aren't (this only happened to me once in six years as a firefighter) gets introduced to a sheriff's deputy and I walk away.

We could better answer if you could express more of the circumstance surrounding your question because if you are a firefighter taking pictures while in the course of your job you are under the rules of your FD

BUT if you are taking them as an off duty FF or civilian as a hobby on your own time or at another departments fire you are free to take any pictures from the sidewalk or outside the fire line. there are no laws restricting photography at emergency scenes UNLESS you are a responder of the department in question.

I was stopped by a police officer who didn't like me taking pictures of a fire and I was nearly arrested for it. when I asked why she wanted me to stop she said " I don't think its right for you to be taking pictures of a fire"

based on your question I hope you were not told you could not take pictures in these 2 counties only...i'd like to hear the circumstances surrounding that and the reason because in my expierence when I started shooting fires, some wanted to know why I was doing it and I used to say how do you think fire magazines get pictures?

great response ben between legal and permitted because like I wrote before I was nearly arrested for fire photography because the LEO didn't like me doing it an told me that I could be arrested.

getting the house numbers is a crock, house numbers visible or not, its in the public eye and fair game. as far as I know photography as it relates to HIPPA regulates the responders not civilian photographers and hopefully when they photograph a victim they use common sense but legally you cannot stop anyone from taking pictures

This comment, " I don't think its right for you to be taking pictures of a fire" is a violation of your First Amendment rights, just sayin'. Cops that say things like this scare me. It doesn't matter what they think is right or wrong, what does the LAW say is right or wrong? Taking photographs or shooting video of a fire scene falls under protected speech, you don't have to be the media or hold a press pass to do it. As long as you are in a safe area and doing what you are doing safely and without impinging on the authorities working at the scene, it's fair game.

I knew that when the encounter started because I've been shooting fires since I was 13 and this was the first time I was ever ordered to stop taking pictures not because I broke a law, but because of one cops opinion backed up by a badge  

BUT what hurt the most was the sweep under the rug by internal affairs. all I asked that the officer be made aware of that the law was and the rest be educated also BECAUSE when I got the letter telling me it was swept under the rug I vowed that if it happened again, I was going to drag it through the legal system for as long as it takes and the only settlement I would accept is going to have a lot of zeros after a large number in front

in my experience this was more of a situation of "contempt of cop" than an offence of law because civilians were walking through the scene without control BUT only I was restricted to a certain space and subject to arrest for "obstruction" if I didn't comply (which I did)

I took some heat from my cop buddies because of the IAB complaint but I told them that if you were off duty and were rousted because of some made up BS, don't lie to me and say you would not have a talk with that cops CO.

this post is one of my hot button subjects only because (since I had my encounter) I have seen more and more photographer and videographers being harassed by fire and police officials for simply taking a picture(s) or video which within the law is a protected right

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