Think Before You Type
I love technology. I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and I post photos to Instagram. I enjoy reading fire service articles, exchanging tweets with firefighters from across the nation, and like many of you, I look at tons of fire scene photos and video clips. Sometimes I see things that make me cringe, sometimes I see things that make me proud to be a firefighter. Our department has used these photos and videos for training purposes, and have often discussed them at length. With the number of fires continuing to go down, we can truly benefit by reviewing the ones that are posted online. With the advancements in video technology and the use of helmet cams, we can almost feel like we are on the scene. But, we shall always remember that we were NOT on scene. We can’t see the whole picture. We don’t know the community. We don’t know the department’s staffing levels, training, leadership, or anything other than what we see online. We can guess what’s going on and we can imagine what we would do in a similar situation. We can assume that their procedures and guidelines are in line with ours, but the bottom line is – we don’t know. We weren’t there and because of this, we should always refrain from making negative comments online.
Again, I am a strong advocate for reviewing these calls. I am thankful that people post pictures, audio of the radio traffic, and video clips. Reviewing these calls may even save a firefighter’s life or prevent an injury by initiating some additional training and conversation. However, my stomach turns when I see comments with words like “idiots,” “morons,” and “stupid.” Not only does this break the bond of brotherhood in our beloved fire service, it causes pain to the affected department and their community. Also, we must remember that there are usually victims of these incidents as well. Home or business owners, people who are injured, and those who have lost property. The last thing they need to read online is a nasty comment from a firefighter 500 miles away who is being critical of the responding agency's tactics.
My mother, who is maybe the kindest person on the planet, taught me from a young age; “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I bet your mom taught you the same thing. Nothing good comes from posting a negative comment online. Sometimes it’s obvious what the problem is. There is a very good chance lots of other people are seeing the same thing as you. Nothing is gained when you post a rude comment on a story about a firefighter who makes a mistake on an emergency scene. In my opinion, they have already been punished enough by having to endure the fact that they are being posted all over the internet. We should all work harder to encourage our fellow department members to hold back on the negative commenting.
I believe in brotherhood. To me it means we support each other. We stand together. I believe in training. Reviewing news clips and fire calls we find online is extremely beneficial. Pointing out the things we see and discussing them with our fellow firefighters is essential. However, we need to do this behind closed doors, at the fire station for training purposes only.
Finally, think about this. The next call you go on there could be someone waiting and watching with camera in hand and it may be YOUR actions being scrutinized by thousand of firefighters you’ve never met.
Be safe and be kind.
Joseph Kitchen, OFC, is the Chief of the Bath Twp. Fire Dept. (Lima, Ohio.) He began his career in 1990 and has served as fire chief since 2002. He holds degrees in EMS and fire science, and in 2012 was named “Fire Officer of the Year” by the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety. Follow Chief Kitchen on Twitter @bathtwpchief and visit his department’s website at www.bathtwpfd.com