As the father of a, gulp, young daughter who is a few years from becoming a teenager, I try to maintain a knowledge of the different social media platforms. I recently ran across one that grabbed my attention in terms of the emergency services.
This social media platform hosts videos that are made showing a variety of goofy, satirical and serious situations. Videos are censored to some level but there are a lot of questionable aspects such as cursing.
Now you may be wondering why I mentioned my daughter and this social media platform. Scrolling through these videos I was able to see a lot of questionable actions by fire and EMS staff. Not all these videos of fire and EMS were questionable, but many were. So, what were some of these actions you may be asking?
First, I was able to hear addresses and nature of calls for many different agencies. Now I know that people can use scanners and such. However, the public demands more from us than airing their information on social media. Several times I was able to locate the residence on an online mapping software and was able to go into a county’s GIS data and find out who lives there. On face value, this does not violate HIPAA, but this still can cause a citizen to lose respect for the department and can provide them a pathway to file a civil lawsuit even if a criminal law was not broken.
Secondly, I watched as different members of this social media platform recorded members driving their vehicles to emergency traffic calls and some actions on scene. On occasion, I could see clearly a lack of due regard for other drivers in their response and other issues such as a lack of wearing a seatbelt. God forbid but should anything ever happen, and you had recorded this, then this is likely going to be court evidence. Therefore, plan on your phone or other recording device being confiscated and maybe never returned. In addition, due to your recording, you may reduce or even eliminate any coverage by Worker’s Compensation or other compensation due to proof of negligence on your fellow members parts (e.g. not wearing a seatbelt).
Third, and probably a bigger issue for me, is the gross lack of maturity and intelligence in making some of these videos. It reminds me of the 1990s when firefighters were wearing the Big Johnson Fire Department shirts with half naked women all over the firefighters. I saw firefighters pranking other members in ways that could cause harm — more dangerous than simply putting someone in a dump tank for instance. I saw skits where members played the part of a patient in the back of an ambulance and the “medic or EMT” rudely complained when the patient passed gas. Now the likelihood of this getting you sued is not huge. However, as a serious profession, how does this make us look? Again, I am not talking about the educational or the silly videos but the downright immature videos.
The other aspect is that it is not only us that are taking these videos. There are several videos that you could tell were taken by citizens. Everyone has a video camera (i.e. phone) on their side now. Therefore, it is now more than ever for us to be careful, be mature, and follow the rules/policies as they are written. There is more of a chance of us “getting caught” on video than ever.
Another aspect to address here, is that these videos showed their department names often. These videos were not limited to volunteers or career. I have seen videos from both sides and even videos from members who inform you during the video of their department.
What are the repercussions of these videos that are questionable? Well in certain conditions, you and/or your department could get sued in Civil Court. This does not require per se a criminal law to be broken. This could cost your department a lot of needed financial resources that they now have to pay for increased insurance premiums or paid to a citizen or complainant. Not all these videos could necessarily get you or your department sued. However, our citizens deserve better than this. They expect us to be a prepared, well oiled machine ready to respond at a moment’s notice and handle any emergency or incident that they are experiencing. Should our citizens see us making some of these videos, I highly believe that they would lose a lot of respect for us and our hard work.
To sum things up as social media users, think about what you are doing when using any social media. Give it a second or two to process what others may say about this and how it makes us look. Social media is not all bad but can be when we do not use it properly. As officers and administrators, it is time that we ensure we have a proper social media policy and stay current on it. We are responsible for what we allow to happen. We must work to train our members on the policy and ensure that we keep up with what our members are posting.
Let us all make sure we use social media for good and let the citizens and visitors know how hard we work to protect them. Once a bridge is burned it is likely to never be rebuilt again.
Until next time be safe!
Allison this is a caption