California Helmet Cams:Hayward and Contra Costa County

Why we believe this first-person view is important to the fire service.

Two helmet camera videos from California highlight why we believe that with good footage and editing, these types of videos are important to our education.

In the Fairway House Fire video, Hayward firefighters arrive at the scene of a well-involved garage fire. Fireground audio is added beginning with the dispatch and gives an almost complete first-person simulation. I say almost, because we don’t have the audible face to face conversations. While the actions in the video might lead to some questions, keep in mind that in the case of most all videos and photos the viewer does not have the full story of what transpired.

Instead, focus on the ability to discuss sizeup and communications when watching the Hayward video. Listen at how the incoming companies are advised of conditions and how other important information is shared. Review how your department would be dispatched and how the initial assignments would be given out.

Next is Contra Costa County where a house fire in Antioch is documented from the view of the captain of Engine 81. Contra Costa Fire promotes this video and that is a huge benefit as a public information piece. With the availability of helmet cameras, or even with simple hand-held cameras, there is should be no department in 2012 fretting that the public has no understanding of what they do. With a properly written and understood social media policy in place, the public of any fire department should be able to see what we see.

In this video, done with both a helmet camera and apparatus cameras, we get the view of the first due engine company officer at a fully involved house fire. As the first hoseline is stretched (they have their own hydrant at the 0:26 mark in case you missed it) we take part in the size-up of Sides Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. There is no audio with this fire and that is disappointing; it would have made it a perfect video to learn from. If departments are using fireground footage as a public relations tool, then consideration must be given to the victims and homeowners who might see a video of the their home in flames to the tune of pop music or some other soundtrack. Still, the Antioch house fire video is great for training.

What we miss in audio we gain with through editing and the use of the camera on the back of Engine 81. Now we can combine that first person view with the scene views of the second engine arriving and the actions of the other firefighters. Here was see a second and third hoseline being stretched and quite a bit of face to face communication. Use this video as a communications drill, go over your on scene report, size-up report and what assignments would be given to the incoming companies.

With good editing and a common sense use policy, departments can effectively use helmet cameras, and other video cameras, to help their public image and further the education of their firefighters and firefighters across the country. Try not to focus so much on the tactics and strategy in existing videos but look at what your department would do in the scenes captured.

You can find more posts about helmet cameras and videos on Backstep with the links. You can also see what specific type of video we find good for sharing, discussing and learning from.

Where I come from, if the Lineman dropped the nozzle down like that, he wouldn’t find it when he came back.






Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

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