FIRST ARRIVING NETWORK
First Arriving Network
Powered by the First Arriving Network, Reaching 1M+ First Responders Worldwide

Counseling Session for Better Judgment…This is Great Judgment.

There are many that think  just because I’m  associated with the Fire/EMS Blog Network that I know what I’m doing, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth! I’m lost and fortunate enough to be part of this network with such a fantastic support gorup of innovators behind me. I started blogging almost 2 yrs ago now by simply posting the happenings of my shift (“C”) on the Engine Company #9 Blog. (www.enginecompany9.blogspot.com).  My ball of rubber bands got bigger and bigger and now, here I am on the Network. Alot of people have asked me why. Why “waste” the time??

I want you to read this. The following is a comment I received (not a comment, a “message”) on Face Book (aka “picture Book”).  This simple statement from a single arthur makes all this time, effort etc worth while….

” Capt., I wanted to let you know that I am a follower of your website. You are a true leader with a huge heart! That is an awesome combination that you don’t see very much anymore! Without sounding like a suck-up, I just wanted to say that the world could use a few more people like you. Thanks for having the courage to talk in an open forum on your web page. I am not quite that technical, or do I feel like I have time to do it. I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys your take on firehouse life. It is really true that we live a different life then the rest of the world. You do a great job expressing what we all go though and how we all feel at times. Keep up the great work, Capt. You are truly making a difference! Thank you,

Size”

WOW!!! Sums it up right?? Well, how about this?? The Fire Critic also hit on the same article here. Starting to see a pattern?  If not, check out the comments from the post “Ramblings”. Again….WOW!  Lawyer’s comment is as heart felt as the post. Messages etc like those make it worth while. Now, don’t get me wrong; there are other comments / actions that make ya want to throw your hands up and say screw it. Tuesday was almost one of em. I say almost because if it wasn’t so funny I would have just quit.

I received a “counseling session” on Tuesday from my Battalion Chief (no…it’s NOT the first). He advised me that our Deputy Chief had instructed him to “council” me on using “better judgment” pertaining to my post here on the site. He spoke specifically about the first day of this last cycle post ( or the Oct. 23rd post.. Nothing says 4 day break is over like a working fire) where I posted about a “working fire” on our 1st day back from break. Apparently, I should have used better judgment when or while posting pics of the interior of this structure. Hummmmm… better judgment??? I have several thoughts and issues here.

1st.) I never gave an address or name of occupant and / or owner.

2nd.) The exterior pics didn’t show an address or give a clue as to the location of the incident.

3rd.) The interior pics were of “specific” items etc that served or could / should have served as a training tools for us and every other fire department etc who reads or follows this blog.

4th.) The pics in no way showed wealth or valuables etc left behind by this family due to the fire.

My questions??? How much more good judgment could I have used in that post??? I chose those specific pics for a reason. I used them because they didn’t show too much.  I understand the concept of not using / showing interior pics etc. If I’ve been there, this person / family has most likely been through enough without having their personal space plastered all over the Internet. There has been a HUGE issue with firefighters, pictures and their appropriate use recently in Georgia. Statter, Geezer and the Firecritic have covered it well.  That said, and in this case; I don’t think that’s what happened. I used an interior pic of a propane burner. I used another showing automotive tires inside the structure. Both, were what I perceived as safety issues and wanted / attempted to share that information with the Brothers and Sisters who read this blog. I used specific pics to make a specific point. I thought I had “covered my bases” enough that I did not invade the home owner / occupant’s privacy. Apparently, in the eyes of my Department; I could have done better. How??? I’m not sure. The only way would have been to not use them at all and I believe that would have been an injustice to those of us on the job.

I can’t help but wonder if that in some way, this “counseling session” was more directed to the posting of the child. Again, I was VERY careful not to give details. No address, no names, no ages etc. This kid can and could be most any child in a big city. Those of us with any time at all on the job have ran this call several times before.  I felt there was a story there and I told it. Apparently, it touched several others as it had me. I think that maybe due to all the “hype” and negative publicity that the Georgia incident has brought to the Fire Service, my Department may be a little nervous.

Do these stories need to be told? I think so. Somebody has to tell em. We (the Fire Service) have millions of stories just like my last few postings that need to be shared. Shared with one another and with the public. I’ve said it before that most people have no idea what we do and see on a daily basis. I think they should. The story needs to be told but in the right way (in a way protecting those involved).

Social media is growing by leaps and bounds as I type. “Picture Book”, “Churp Churp”, etc. and no one knows how to control it as of yet because it’s inventing itself as it grows. It’s hard to keep up with for those that are involved with and good at it… much less for those of us unfamiliar with it’s uses / possibilities. Much like on the job where we have a “duty to act”, I think here, we have a duty to act responsibly. Should there be guidelines etc for those doing it while on duty … I think it must be. My department has none. No  SOP / SOG (standard operating procedure / guideline) for Social Media (or even cell phones or pictures) while on duty. Do we need some??? again, I say yes. Should Social Media even be allowed while on duty? Here, I’ll again say “yes” but with guidelines. When used correctly, These blogs, websites, pics, tweets etc can be learning tools for everyone they reach. WOW… what a concept huh? We can learn lessons on the East coast from a fire out on the West coast just minutes after it happened. We can share stories of the job we do and how it affects us thus giving the public (our true bosses) a better understanding of what we do. How much help could that be when we are up asking for more tax payer money for equipment, raises etc? I guess in short, I think we need to embrace Social Media and use it to our advantage but, do so in a controlled manner.

I personally, my Department, and us here on the Fire/EMS Blog Network; have a great resource for dealing with these issues. Rhett Fleitz (the Fire Critic) is what most consider to be a leader / expert in this area (Rhett and I work for the same Department). Rhett has even been chosen to present a class on Social Media at 2011 FDIC! Statter and I agree that Rhett doesn’t even look old enough to work for the Fire Department yet now here he is going to present at FDIC. Congratulations and WOW! For us, me and my Department; maybe it is Rhett who should be doing the “counseling”. Teaching the “do’s and dont’s” the why and why not’s. On the tail of this Georgia embarrassment and my counseling session I’d ask does your department have policies or guidelines concerning Social Media? Do you think you should have and where and how do we draw the lines?

In the mean time, be smart about what you use / post. Remember, someone is on the other end of that camera or cell phone lens, or reading that post or comment. Try not only to do a good job, try to do “the right thing”. Will I work / try harder (make better decisions) in my postings??? YOU BETCHA!!

Thanks again for reading / following and for all the support and comments.

Captain Wines

Comments - Add Yours

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike “FossilMedic” Ward

    Willie, I look forward to your posts. They are thoughtful, moving and often hilarious.Especially that part of Rhett making a presentation at FDIC!!(Oh …… that one wasn’t a joke!)So what happens when you get another “counseling session” based on THIS post?Your brother from the other side of the Old Dominion … When I was on the job, could only get fire stuff published by using my community college part-time job.Mike

  • Dave LeBlanc

    Capt….or should I call you Willie so it not “Official”…..

    I read that post with interest, and saw the pictures and saw no harm. I guess I would of thought someone would of had an issue with your more recent posts about the EMS call cause everyone gets touchy about that stuff.

    Even though I thought you posted with great taste and compassion….

    You’re a fireman’s fireman Capt……keep up the good work.

  • http://www.backstepfirefighter.com Bill Carey

    Welcome aboard Willie,

    Your point about using social media in a controlled manner is a good point. Just in the examples you gave from STATter911 and Fire Critic, we see what happens when departments are completely hands off about social media and networking. Fortunately for you, the upside to your counseling was that you have a chief officer who did not go to the extreme and shut down your blog. The creative writing is a sticky area for chiefs and administrators as they try to balance legalities of speech and “customer” rights.

    A smart chief officer can use a “counseling session” not only to caution you, but to unofficially set the ground rules among the troops as far as what is and is not expected. It can also prompt the administration to take a closer look and see if they can spin a member’s writing to their own advantage, as well as safeguard against any negative press. Not every department has a public information officer, or a local reporter who cares about regularly reporting public safety news. For some departments, the blogging member may be the PIO.

    Bill Carey

  • Jackson

    shows you what our “deputy chief” is doing behind his desk everyday. NOTHING!

  • chiefreason

    Willie:
    You’re an OFFICER for chrissakes. You have already proven to your chief officers that you HAVE good judgment in all that you do.
    What I think was going on was that informal boundaries were being drawn about your thoughtful musings.
    You KNOW what you want to do. Keep doing it.
    You belong to a nation of readership now. No looking back.
    Those around you need to get use to the idea.
    That rubber band ball is going to get bigger.
    I can schedule a “session” if you’d like.

  • Pingback: Size matters and yea….I have a big one! | Iron Firemen()

  • Pingback: Old firemen and dirty balls | Iron Firemen()