By Thomas Warren
Firefighters face many dangers every day. Every response exposes firefighters to the hazards of fires, hazmat incidents, communicable diseases, physical injuries, and emotional scarring. Firefighters have long known of these dangers and the effects they can have on members’ careers. A new and persistent danger has now appeared in the fire service that can cause the same career-ending effect, and many firefighters have yet to recognize it. All members of the fire service must be made aware of this new danger and guard against its consequences.
What is this hideous new danger that can bring career-ending consequences? The answer is the phenomenon of social media. Firefighters have long been revered as heroes willing to risk their lives to save others. Firefighting was not considered a profession that was entered into for high wages or extravagant benefits–it was a calling. The terror attacks of 9/11 reinforced this concept in most everyone’s mind. But 9/11 was 10 years ago, and in that time the technical advances in communication devices have essentially placed a movie studio in everyone’s hands. Couple thesetechnological advances with the national economic downturn and the closer scrutiny paid to firefighter wages and benefits, and you have a real problem for today’s firefighters. The full extent of how this will impact the fire service is yet to be seen, but a review of some recent events should place the fire service on notice that it is not business as usual any longer.
Some of the events that have recently occurred include relatively minor incidents but that still have a negative impact on the fire service. Recently in a northeastern city, a tower ladder truck was photographed illegally parked blocking traffic on a busy downtown street while the crew of four firefighters was in a coffee shop enjoying an afternoon coffee. An aggravated civilian who was late for an appointment took a photo of the parked tower ladder and immediately e-mailed it to the mayor’s office. The result was a quick and painful call from the mayor’s office requiring the fire chief to explain this indulgence. In addition, a local investigative news reporter captured a video of an engine company shopping for food at a market in a neighboring city. This resulted in an investigative report on the six o’clock news and another painful call from the mayor’s office requiring the local fire chief to explain why his fire trucks were out of the city.
Read the full article on FireEngineering.com.