Social Media Use on the Job

On the last Firefighter Netcast Live Netcast with Jason Hoevelmann we discussed social media use on the job along with many other topics.

We are coming to a point in time where Fire Departments are letting their firefighters lay the foundation for their social media policy.

What I mean is FD’s are learning what social media is, they are formulating their opinions of the various facets of social media, and they are watching to see how/when/why/where/how much their firefighters are using social media.

This process is developing blanket policies basically stating that NO social media may be used while on duty for some firefighters. This is mainly because of the stupid actions by few.

Basically, Chiefs are letting firefighters hang themselves and then swooping in with strict enforcement of other policies like “conduct unbecoming a firefighter” to serve punishment for their actions. What follows is typically a blanket policy prohibiting the use of social media.

Firefighters should not be using social media while in the operations of an emergency incident!

Also, Firefighters should be concerned about what they are saying via social media and how it will be inferred by the readers! I have heard it said that if your mom or Chief would not want to hear you say it then don’t say it!

Two things could curb this blanket policy…

  1. Firefighters being smarter with their actions.
  2. Proactive policy development and research by Fire Departments.

Firefighters need to be smarter about what they do while online both on-duty and off-duty. Recently, a firefighter lost his job for creating a video. Some felt the video was in poor taste and potentially racist.

Others have been seen texting, tweeting, updating facebook while on the emergency scene. Some Company Officers are dealing with firefighters doing these things while the firefighters should be training.

My point is that if firefighters were smarter about using social media we wouldn’t put ourselves in these situations.

Fire Departments need to be proactive and not reactive. Unfortunately, FD’s are put in the situation of being reactive typically due to firefighters stupid actions.

If you are a Chief or developing a social media policy, you owe it to your department to learn what social media is and what it isn’t.

The use of social media can increase the positive public relations FD’s yearn for. They can do this through proper policy and usage by the employees of the department. Likewise, negative public relations can be created by improper use.

Do the homework and get the policy right the first time…quite wasting time and protect your firefighters by creating the policy today.

The Fire PIO has an excellent post on social media policies for Fire Departments here. Another great tool for PIO’s and FD’s preparing for a social media policy or simply learning about social media is PIO Social Media Training!

Does your department have a social media policy? Please share the basic premise of it in the comments!