The do's and don'ts of social media in emergency services

When social media and emergency services mix, an explosive concoction begins to form

By Dr. Shana Nicholson and Joseph Heaton
American Military University

Social media has become a staple in today’s society. It is hard to find someone who does not participate in at least one service, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Using social media for personal reasons is socially acceptable, however, when social media and emergency services mix, an explosive concoction begins to form. A simple Google search uncovers multiple examples of emergency responders being suspended, fired, and sued for their participation — as first responders — in postings on social media.

What to Consider Before You Post
First, you have to understand how you are going to be perceived: Are you posting on your personal account or on an (un)official department page?

Posting in an Official Capacity
When posting in an official capacity, always make sure your content is respectful (and grammatically correct!). Great examples include training announcements and pictures, awards to local first responders, promotional events for local departments, general public-relation announcements, and emergency alerts. Be sure that the information posted on official accounts is respectful and reflects positively on the department.

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About the author

In Public Safety is an American Military University (AMU) sponsored blog that features analysis and commentary on issues relating to law enforcement, emergency management, fire services and national intelligence. This blog features in-depth discussions authored by leading experts with decades of experience in their field. To stay updated on blog posts and other news relevant to these sectors, please follow us on Facebook by “liking” AMU & APUS Public Safety Programs. You can also follow us on our sector-specific Twitter accounts: @AMUPoliceEd, @AMUFireEd, @AMUDisasterEd, @AMUIntelStudies.

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