Fire Engineering: Social media tips and tricks for volunteer departments

By Thomas A. Merrill
For Fire Engineering

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And on Facebook. And Twitter. And anywhere else people decided to post their photos and comments for the world to see. Of course, what people post is their own personal business. However, the professional volunteer firefighter has a duty and obligation to ensure his posts do not negatively impact the image and reputation of his department or our great fire service.

Used correctly, social media can be a great tool and can contribute greatly to a department’s professional reputation. But, if used inappropriately, a firefighter and a department’s reputation can be destroyed very quickly, and that damage can be hard to repair.

The professional volunteer fire department should develop and implement a stringent social media policy outlining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. It should also identify who is authorized to make postings on behalf of the department. Department leaders should also seek legal guidelines regarding what can be posted. In addition, all firefighters, from the newest probie to the most senior member, need to be educated and made aware of the immediate impact (good and bad) social media postings can have on a firefighter and a fire department. They need to understand that as firefighters, they are held to a higher standard of conduct and whatever they choose to post, they are posting as a firefighter and as a member of their department.

Firefighters should even be careful and use discretion when creating a post as a private citizen on their own personal social media accounts. Chances are, they have something on their site identifying themselves as a firefighter. Images such as a proud pose in that full dress uniform, an action shot at a fire call, or comments about a recent department function all certainly clearly identify them. It simply might just be the fact that people and acquaintances know they are firefighters. Our members need to understand this and, as firefighters, they should act accordingly and uphold the stalwart and honorable reputation we enjoy.

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