Facebook Pharisees Throwing Stones


Give it rest will you? You’re not perfect.


My coworker, so to speak, Ray McCormack and I were having one of our regular discussions on all things fire and most things disturbing in the fire service and we were on the subject of internet and Facebook experts. Ray’s sharp with writing and came up with the Safety ADHPD (Attention Deficit Hyper Photography Disorder) which he posted on UFM’s Facebook page. Here is a brief part of Ray’s post,

You need to be a safety zealot and narcissist to display symptoms of the disorder. To web surfers, this disorder manifests itself in several common and visceral ways. The most common is to critique what most would think was a fairly safe fire scene photo until they spot someone not actively engaged in the action without their gloves on. Now, a firefighter near flames or a firefighter pulling a jagged piece of metal without gloves would be an obvious hazard, but to the ADHPD firefighter, the entire photo is condemned for the perceived sins of one.

The offender doesn’t have to be near the action, they just have to be in the photo because according to an ADHPD firefighter, if the photo is posted, it’s open season. Even hunting seasons have rules, but the zealot doesn’t respect rules when it comes to fire scene photo violators. Everyone in the photo must be punished for a single missing piece of PPE. Is omission all you see? If it is you are missing so much.

Today’s arm chair critic living in virtual anonymity demonizes those that allow the slightest infraction to pass. What brings on such loyalty to cause? It’s not subject matter expertise. It is not experience. It is not informed debate. It is the need to be heard. It is the need to chastise with moral superiority. It is with righteous indignation that they let you know that they are correct and all others must conform.

Well, for all those that feels the need to critique the one second in time flaw that filled their monitor or cell phone screen go right ahead, but just remember you’re boring us. Fire scene photos go up by the hundreds daily on the Internet. Critiquing them for best in “Equipment Omission” does not solve safety issues. It makes you look petty.

At work we ran the news story of firefighters working on a playground project in and around Newtown, Connecticut to help children and families deal with the grief that remains after 20 children and six school employees were killed in one of the worst mass shootings our country has experienced.

The “Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play” was promoted through the efforts of the New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association and it connects the people affected by the Newtown shootings to those still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy through the hard work of volunteers. Lieutenant Ernie Ruot, of Westport, Connecticut is one of those many volunteers. Ruot is seen in the Associated Press photo working on the playground that will remember Dylan Hockley, one of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.

Yes he doesn’t appear to be wearing gloves, eye protection, chaps, a helmet, safety vest, ear protection, fall arrest device, or any other material that may save him from the impending doom that is most certain to come. And so it began, with the Facebook Pharisees throwing their rocks.

It’s funny, strange, that in another story about throwing rocks, the person who stood up for the one about to be stoned reminded those getting ready to hurl that the perfect one among them should be the first to let fly.

Give it rest, will you? We know, we know, but life isn’t perfect and this isn’t a fireground and it may come as a surprise to you but you and your fires aren’t perfect either. You’re not saving any lives throwing a flag on the field with every play. Smart debate and discussion on strategy and tactics is one thing, but tossing out “where’s his PPE!?” doesn’t add much to the many who have already chimed in on it earlier it.

Here’s a photo from my very much imperfect past. That’s me, no facepiece on; no hood; the outback I’m on was solid, but I’m sure it can be debated blindlessly by people who were never there. Would I do the same thing now? Yes, but not in the same manner, not without being better dressed. People learn, change, and move on in different stages. Just remember, when you wind up to throw that electronic stone, search your mental hard drive and make sure you’re not guilty of something equally significant – or petty.

Try instead to be supportive, if it’s only “nice job.” There’s too much negativity in the world today so why add to it? Lieutenant Ruot should have worn eye protection, but for now I’m simply impressed that he and others can find the time to give to such a project. I can’t go and explain to him the proper use of a cutoff saw and if I could then I am certainly over-stepping the many responsibilities of my own. We could go decades finding flaws in every single photo of a firefighter and what good would that do? Why do we need to be so operationally legalistic about our photos and videos? Don’t tell me that doing so can help save lives and reduce LODDs; I call bunk on that and the proof is in the deaths and the fire service media.
Constructive criticism is one thing; throwing stones is another.

It’s amazing how some of us have lived so long without all of the internet experts.



Bill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.com, LawOfficer.com and FireEMSBlogs.com. Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince George’s County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville where he met Chris Hebert and Dave Ianonne, the creators of Firehouse.com. Bill went to work for them back in 2001 and after they transitioned away to new, bigger projects, he was hired by them again in 2009. Bill’s writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of “Fire Officer: Principles and Practice”, The Secret List and Tinhelmet.com.

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