I've been asked to present a discussion / training concerning the use of  firefighters and personal camera phones  & Video while on scene.


With the new technology and the easy access to the web for posting these videos , we want to open a discussion on what types of liabilities this may present, emotional issues from victims and their families, what rights are involved, and can these videos be a useful tool.


I look forward to your replies as I am very intrested in the different viewpoints.

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I always ask an Chief, Captain, or LT before taking a picture. I then show the picture to them to see if its ok to keep it.
I always make sure no possible patients of family is in the picture.
I never take pictures if someone lost their life there.

I fully respect everyone when it comes to taking pictures on scene along with an Officer or above saying no.

Just my 9+ years past practice in the matter.
Our policy is simple; NO taking of pictures with personal cell phone cameras of patients/victims.
I believe existing law regarding publication of pictures and video has established that "public domain" means an image is of something that is "in the public view." If something is not available for viewing by the general public the photographer must have permission from the property owner or from the person or persons who are depicted in the picture or video to publish it. The way I interpret that: If I am on the fire ground and the public is being held a block away I should not publish a picture I took while I was there unless I get written permission from the property owner. That's years old, but might still be current. Check with a newspaper editor or a television producer to find out for sure. I agree they are still useful in house for training in any case.
If you are working the scene, then leave the cameras alone, do your job instead of taking pictures.
That is the PIO's job, do your own.
Our dept is trying to come up with a policy. There's several issues to consider here but they all stem from the question, "What is the picture going to be used for?" Is the picture to be used for documentation, evidence, training, or just for idle curiosity? I believe we have the capability to attach pictures to our Firehouse report on the computer, but I don't think anyone has tried it (documentation). Our investigators may do that (evidence), but their section of the report is locked out to everyone else. Why anyone would want to take a picture of a fatality or someone suffering brings up mental issues in my opinion (idle curiosity)!

So that leaves training. I'm a training officer and have responded to a few scenes. On one fire scene with a fatality, I took our digital camera and got pictures for training purposes. No pictures of the body and no interior pictures. I checked with the investigator and he wanted a copy to make sure there wasn't anything they needed or would hamper the investigation. In the end, there were no problems.

Another thing to consider, possibly the biggest other than legal issues, is public perception. Let's say on a scene you've got a white shirt with a digital camera taking pictures. Public says, "Hey, he's doing his job." Standing right next to the white shirt is any crew member, white shirt or not, with a cell phone taking pictures. The public thinks, "Hey, why is he taking pictures? Are these going to end up on the internet? That just ain't right!" Both sets of pictures may be for training or other job related purpose, but the public sees a difference between a cell phone and a camera. (For some reason, the public generally doesn't think about the fact that the digital camera pictures could be downloaded to a PC and uploaded to the Net.) Even if it is for training purposes, the last thing you want is to end up on news footage of the scene with your cell phone out, taking pictures. Especially while there are flames showing! Under no circumstances should ANY suppression personnel take pictures while emergency operations are underway. Wait until the fire is out or you're waiting on the tow truck at a wreck, etc.

Best thing to do is to ban picture taking with cell phones. Next best would be to require permission to take the photos and only then for training purposes. If the public raises a stink, that's why supervisors get paid the big bucks!
I've taken pictures at scenes, but I make sure that no patients are in the pictures and/or videos. I think it's disrespectful to include a patient in a picture/video without their consent, and it most likely holds civil liabilities as well.
Taking pictures at a scene isn't a PIO's job either. He/she is there to provide information to the public. Hense Public Information Officer. He speaks to the public to keep them informed of a situation that pertains to them. He/she does not provide pictures of the incident.
I'm usually busy on scene, and photos are the last thing I care about. If the department wants pics taking for some reason they asign that task to someone (assuming we have the personell to do it).

Dear Phoenix... Dude, seriously, you are so out of touch with reality here. Not sure just how clued in to what a PIO does for a living but not taking photographs is nothing less than idiotic. Have you ever taken any PIO training, of any kind? Are you familiar at all with what a press release is?

Here's a hint from PIO 101:

Using Photos with News Releases
It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Assuming that's true, PIOs in the fire service have an advantage over our counterparts in law enforcement, because fire-rescue scenes are generally more visually interesting. Why not take advantage of that opportunity and take photos to show your firefighters at work? In addition to the sample news release you can download, a photo that accompanied that release is also included.
Attaching a photo or two with your news release is the proverbial icing on the cake. News outlets often post my photos on their various web sites, and occasionally they appear in the local paper and in TV newscasts. In some cases, those photos were then picked up by the Associated Press and other syndicated news services and sent around the world.
If you start using photos, here are a few tips. Try to frame your photos to show your firefighters, your apparatus (especially your department logo) and the fire all in the same photo. A photo of a fire with no firefighters is okay, but a photo of a fire with firefighters is better. Still better is a photo of a fire, with firefighters, putting water on the flames (see sample fire photos). The intent here is to not just show the fire, but to show your firefighters working diligently to put the fire out. This presents a clear illustration to area residents and your elected officials that the money spent on your department is money well spent, and that you might even deserve a little more!

I am normally not this adamant about what is posted but your opinion and input is 100% wrong. Times are very competitive for whatever funding is available out there. Read what I shared above Phoenix and become better educated.

On ems runs I will occasionally take a picture on my own phone of a car accident or patient. I do it only so that I can more accurately explain the mechanism of injury to the ER doctors. I always make sure to delete the photo IMMEDIATELY after I show it to the doctors.

If I want pictures of a fire I have worked I cut them out of the newspaper.
One of our cadets is practically obsessed with his camera on scene. None the less he has some great videos and clips. My first "fire" is on YouTube because of this guy. Since he is a cadet there is not too much he can do one scene. Everything he records is reviewed by a chief before it leaves the camera and anything they deem risky is deleted on the spot. I even got a wrist slap from some of his footage(a full airbottle, new years eve, and a spinnable desk chair). He has even created some really cool videos showcasing our past calls which really shine a great light on not only our department but our relationships with surrounding crews.

the Facebook posting of sensitive material is a problem in many fields. That seems more of a problem with personal respect than cell phones. We all have our local and surrounding dispatches in contact list as long as the ambo companyies and other high brass for when its either too embarrassing or private for scanner traffic.


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