Editor's note: With a reporter's clash with an ambulance crew member being captured on camera at the scene of a house fire, Chief Adam K. Thiel outsides some lessons to learn in media relations.
While I don't know the exact circumstances behind the interaction shown in the video below, it shouldn't be a newsflash that fire department efforts to build positive community relations are not helped when we try to "run-off" reporters.
It's one thing if a reporter/videographer places themselves in a dangerous situation, but quite another when they are well into the cold zone and not hampering incident scene operations.
In my experience, media folks are generally quite willing to move if they inadvertently get in harm's way.
Of course, there's also the legal perspective. For the most part, it's been well established that members of the media, and for that matter private citizens, enjoy broad protection for events occuring in the public domain. (Remember that oath we take about upholding the Constitution of the United States?)
It's 2011 and everybody has a video camera; in their cellphone, in their pocket, or on their shoulder. We may as well assume that every incident is recorded, and conduct ourselves accordingly.
Now more than ever, it's absolutely critical to proactively develop good relations with local media outlets and, by extension, the citizens we (jointly) serve.
Personally, I love media calls and getting cameras on scene; it's a great opportunity to tell our story (warts and all), since many people have no idea what we do, or how we do it.
About the author
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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