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I can see two sides of the use of helmet cams for fire dept usage. On the training side I can see where they could be an asset, where you could go over what was and wasn't done at the fire scene, in a rookie situation it would be nice to critique their performance. From a fire investigation side I can see how they could be useful to give investigators the full view of what things looked like, patterns, smoke, etc. I can also see how if not handled properly how they could hurt a dept or put them up for ridicule, i.e. guys putting up their shots on you tube with out permission from the dept. In those situations you all know as well as I how everyone likes to Monday morning quarter back the scene and in some cases just rip you a part.I have also been thinking of the legal side of it, do we really want lawyers to get their hands on our video's? Are we merely opening up Pandora's box? I have been weighing both sides of this idea and am still on the razors edge. So I am looking for your view points on this issue. Does the use of this technology really help us or does it hurt us?

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While posting on line will always draw some fire and Monday morning quarter backing. The good out ways the bad. Others not for the purpose of throwing rocks will learn by this positive or negative clip. Just as photos and videos are allowed to be posted by civilians. Why not for us? Yes something’s can cross a line. (Like the lifeless body of a victim that is burned up) Most will only object because of their own insecurities. We all make mistakes even the best departments. The fact that departments don't want anything negative about their performance hurts us all. Take Phoenix, they have shared some of their worst targedys with the entire fire service and I will credit them with saving firefighters life’s by their actions. The old adage about "Don't say anything bad about your department" is un-American as long as it is posted to be constructive and respectfully. Colin Powel once said the problem with Vietnam " The problem is we had a culture of pleasing and concealing instead of honest evaluation and correction. Post Away and Be Safe,
Frank Ricci
I don't think that you get enough from them for them to be useful as a training aid. The resolution is too low and the inside conditions are not what small cams are built for. If the Firefighter is buying it, I think it's for a "hey, look at me". If the Department is buying them, I'd rather see the money spent on tracking hardware, TICs or other high end electronics.
I think in this "cover your own a**" world, the last thing we need is video of our guys doing something that may not be by the book but better for the fire scene so they can be hung out to dry for their initial actions.
I agree this could be a valuable training and critique tool for a department, but I think any department considering putting helmet cams in service should think about the liability issues that could result from bad tactics and noncompliance with SOG's. If the insurance company gets their hands on the video their attorney's could show that the department caused unessassary damage because of poor tactics and is liable for part of the repairs to the structure. Even worse a family could file a civil lawsuit against the department if your crews failed to find their child during a search.

There may be a way to keep this footage protected under "Peer Review", but you would have to consult your department's attorney.

True story: I responded to a single family dwelling structure fire at night where the fire started in the garage and was spreading to the rest of the house. Upon arrival I noticed that a power line had fallen on the garage and energized the metal garage door to the point that the door was glowing blue. I directed my crew to stop the fire from spreading past the garage, but to not spray water in the garage until the power company arrived and secured the power. The garage was a complete loss but we saved the rest of the home. About a week later I got a call from the insurance adjuster who aggressively question my decision to not extinguish the fire in the garage. While I believe I used the best judgement to protect my crew there are insurance adjusters out there who will question your actions and if they get a hold of a video of you fighting a fire you better hope you did the right thing!

As far as Chiefs are concerned, you guys better hope your department's fireground SOG's can hold up in a court of law based on accepted fire service tactics and strategies. If helmet cam video can be keep inside the department, Great! But if it has to be public record: Warning, Warning, Warning!
I agree completely, I thought this would be a fun discussion to start. I wanted to hear some different view points. And I agree with mr Lasich unfortunately alot of guys around the country that buy them kind of come across as stroking their own ego. But hey thats just the way I see it, sorry if I offended any ego junkies out their. Didnt mean too, ok maybe I did:) With the training aids they could be useful however I believe dash cams could be more beneficial, and for the liability of it, their just not worth the risk. Sometimes it doesnt matter how well you do the job, their will always be some one their ready to sue because even though you saved their house and rescued their family you stepped on their roses and they want compensation. Laugh if you want but you know its true.
Thanks to all that participated, stay safe, and god bless.

Nate Brown said:
I agree this could be a valuable training and critique tool for a department, but I think any department considering putting helmet cams in service should think about the liability issues that could result from bad tactics and noncompliance with SOG's. If the insurance company gets their hands on the video their attorney's could show that the department caused unessassary damage because of poor tactics and is liable for part of the repairs to the structure. Even worse a family could file a civil lawsuit against the department if your crews failed to find their child during a search.

There may be a way to keep this footage protected under "Peer Review", but you would have to consult your department's attorney.

True story: I responded to a single family dwelling structure fire at night where the fire started in the garage and was spreading to the rest of the house. Upon arrival I noticed that a power line had fallen on the garage and energized the metal garage door to the point that the door was glowing blue. I directed my crew to stop the fire from spreading past the garage, but to not spray water in the garage until the power company arrived and secured the power. The garage was a complete loss but we saved the rest of the home. About a week later I got a call from the insurance adjuster who aggressively question my decision to not extinguish the fire in the garage. While I believe I used the best judgement to protect my crew there are insurance adjusters out there who will question your actions and if they get a hold of a video of you fighting a fire you better hope you did the right thing!

As far as Chiefs are concerned, you guys better hope your department's fireground SOG's can hold up in a court of law based on accepted fire service tactics and strategies. If helmet cam video can be keep inside the department, Great! But if it has to be public record: Warning, Warning, Warning!
Cams can be used as a great tool in learning. I believe that you should have a SOP in place before allowing them to be used on a fireground, especially restriction or management expressed permission before they are allowed to be published on U-tube or anywhere else. If in fact the individual truly wants them for educational purposes, they would be happy to use them inhouse long before they are shared with all the folks out there in U-tube land.
Shawn,

Here is my 2 cents worth on the subject. I certainly can see both sides of this issue and you have identified several very good points for consideration. Should your department decide to use helmet cams then I suggest developing a policy/procedure to define who will wear the helmet cams and for what purposes. The policy should also define how the data will be handled and by whom. Define the length of time the the department will maintain the data and the person responsible for the care and custody of the records. As an example, if you have video data on file for the past 5...10...15 years, these records can and will be included in a subpoena should litigation occur. In general, the department should devleop a records retention policy for all department records, but that is another subject entirely. I hope this is of some use. Stay Safe! Walter
I'm a forensic engineer. Is it possible that helmet cams can aid in fire investigation? When doing fire scene reconstruction we are often confounded by not being able to identify the locations of furniture, heaters, appliances, lights, and fuel loads. If the clocks in the helmet cams are synchronized (even roughly) the footage would be useful in understanding the fire direction and rate of fire development. If the fire community is concerned about potential legal issues, then limit the helmet cams to the first responders and overhaul crews then make the videos available to the private sector when potential arson investigations are complete. Accurate cause and origin will be increasingly significant to the insurance industry to identify potential fraud and in subrogation. Lastly, someone should video the on-lookers for the record.
Documentation of a scene as it changes, actions taken etc.
Who wouldn't like to have that for scene reconstruction or training? I use a lot of video's from various sources to get points across in instructing. The Houston MayDay video speaks volumes more than I can teach, it drives home the risk a firefighter. Are you ready to leave a victim to save your own life? Thank You Houston for sharing!
2.
How many of you watched the video from Sorth Carolina 9
and when OH NO!, they didn't do that or this. Do you want that out there for all to see? Media does a lot of damage at times, now we want the video tape on the inside?
After you write the SOP (it should be SOP, because of the
legal risks and ownership) Are you ready to fire the firefigther who broke it? Also are willing to take that risk as management? Because the first burned body posted on the Web can cost you personaly as Management and the firefighter.

To much of a legal risk for me.

Stay Safe
Has any Department addressed this issue with their Attorney? I think the first step would be to find out if a Fire Department can keep these videos from becoming public record. If we focus on using it for pier review, there may be a way to keep them from becoming public record.
I've had some close experiences with regards to both photos and video being used properly and otherwise.

First case example, the Madrid train bombings (over 190 dead). An EMT crew took photos and video of bodies laid in a train station platform, and these were later posted on a gore site. The result was a judge-dictated country-wide ban on the website, and the three arrested and jailed.

Second case example, the Madrid plane crash last August - a police cordon was setup around the crash site which confiscated all cameras and mobile phones with camera as ambulances and fire crews left the area. A few crews that had already taken photos were also arrested and later released. This was done following the train bombings experience with rogue photography.

Finally, in the recent gas explosion in Gava which caused six fatalities, a video was taken by first due crews right after arrival on scene, but it was closely guarded and not made public. Not even department members that participated in the event have been allowed to view it, and when they have, only under specific confidentiality agreements. The video showed clearly the dynamics of the gas penetration and resulting aftermath, and will be an excellent training aid - but only when deemed appropriate both by the department and the judge overseeing the investigation.

Bottom line is that your department must draw a set of procedures, guidelines and rules regarding the use of video and photography (helmet-mounted or not), regardless of whether anyone has brought the subject up. Eventually, with the proliferation of camera phones and pocket cameras (not to mention helmet cams), someone will record an incident, and without a clear set of procedures regarding the handling of such recording, bad things could happen. If everyone in your department is aware of these procedures, there is no room for interpretation. Be sure to specify what can be made public after proper review, and what cannot be made public under any circumstances.

My experience with helmet cameras in interior fires is that the results are almost unusable. You are left with a few minutes of background noise and chatter, almost no image, which makes it hard to coordinate the chain of events with what is being shown on film, for example, later on in a classroom. During training, it's easier to control visibility conditions to make recording useful. Helmet cameras are also useful in recording other incidents such as MVAs, where you can at a later stage review the response with usable imagery, and if the video shows good do's or dont's, add it to your training material arsenal.

Be safe!
It would seem to me that law enforcement has at least the same exposure to the legal issues that the fire service does. We have all sat down and watched COPS for decades. They have personal cameras, dash cameras, traffic cameras, news cameras on their every move. If they can get over the hurdle of litigation, what is stopping us? I work for a department with two stations. I will probably run 10 structure fires this year. If I work 30 years thats about 300 total. Do you really want me for your Fire Chief with that little experience. If I could just capture the experiences of the two other shifts in my department, I could increase my exposure to 900 structures. Can you imagine what I could experience if the Fire Service embraced these cameras. I feel that the real egos are the ones who are afraid to allow their mistakes, and we all make them, be caught. Sure, you are going to have someone who abuses the information and posts pictures or videos of graphic content. They should be dealt with. But don't walk past a dollar to save a dime. The success of The IAFC's "Firefighter Near-miss" program is a great example of how beneficial information can be when we share it.

Thank you all for serving!

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