Ron Ayotte with an easy solution to some of the latest public image problems.
In Georgia, one firefighter is facing termination and seven others are facing hefty suspensions without pay by taking part in a prank that involved a simulated “fire station invasion” by a masked gunman.
In California, a captain of an engine company and his crew are under investigation for allowing their truck to be used in a scene in a porn film where the actress was performing sexual acts.
In the Metro DC area, a video was posted on YouTube showing firefighters using their “butt cheeks” as a launch pad for bottle rockets.
I have but one simple question to ask anyone who thought this was a good idea…
What the (expletive) were you thinking?
Oh yeah, that’s right, you weren’t. I don’t know what is more stupid, actually doing this stupid crap or posting it on YouTube, Facebook or any other social networking site.
Brothers and Sisters, we are under a high powered microscope. There are fire departments who are fighting to maintain their staffing for their own safety as well as that of the public, there are small volunteer fire departments that are fighting for their very survival because of budget cuts or people who just will not pay their fire millage. Posting this stuff hurts everyone!
We have politicians and internet idiots who would cut our funding and pensions, who use stuff like this to tarnish the image of firefighters everywhere.
Another thing to think about is what you do post on fire forums and social networking sites. Some people feel the need to vent and air their fire department’s dirty laundry for all to see, then are “surprised” when they are confronted by the chief of department and their community’s mayor/town manager looking for a letter of reprimand, a suspension or their heads on a platter. Before one posts anything derogatory… imagine your name in the post and you as a target of vitriol.
It’s not only stupid stunts and pranks that get us into trouble. Just about everybody and their dog has a cell phone with photo and video capability. People are taking pictures and uploading videos of us while we are at the station, on the road or at fires, and not all of it is flattering. I have seen videos of fire trucks blowing through traffic signals and firefighters getting off a rig with their SCBA unit on upside down (don’t ask me how they managed to do that, I’m still wondering myself!)
At the kitchen table one night, one of my firefighters came out with the statement that we should enforce a 300 foot buffer zone around every fire operation, whether it is a fire, MVA or a medical because of people with their cameras and phones. Every fire officer would love that, as it would give us the room to work without having to worry about John and Jane Q. Public crossing fire lines, driving over hose lines and rear ending fire apparatus. We all know that’s never going to happen.
The solution is easy… don’t do stupid crap! Do the job, do it right and go home at the end of the tour.
Ron Ayotte is a 29+ year veteran of the fire service and holds the rank of Deputy Chief with the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department. He also works per diem in the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.
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