Editor's note: We're very happy to announce Jason Poremba scooped a prestigious award this week for his 'Close Calls on Camera' section on FireRescue1. Jason won the Best Regularly Featured Web column/Trade category in the 2009 Western Publications Association's 2009 Maggie Awards, which honors the best magazines, online publications and Web sites in the Western United States.
When looking for firefighter videos, I typically search for high quality and high content clips. I try to focus my search on major fires, close calls and mishaps — generally things that firefighters will be interested in and can even learn from.
But in recent months I seem to be coming across more and more videos that take a whole new approach to firefighting and the profession at large. These videos feature firefighters performing various prank-like stunts that are often dangerous and crude. Maybe it is a generational thing; a "Jackass" mentality inspired by the TV show of the same name.
I can for no reason justify or quantify what these firefighters are partaking in. In the age where viral video rules, and everyone wants to be a star, I can only think their irresponsible actions are for pure shock value.
This following video features firefighters training in a car-related rescue operation. I would assume the day started out in learning how to take the glass of a car, and ended up with this:
So we start out using a combination of window punch and actual punch:
The videos highlight the opposite of everything we are trained to do, and often they disrespect the service and the overall image of the firefighters in the public eye. It could be these things were always happening, but now with the huge success of YouTube, Facebook, and twitter, these videos get legs and make it to the masses.
The problems are two-fold. The most striking thing to me is that some superior officer or senior person must be present during these activities. That means we are training our firefighters to act this way and think this is acceptable. The second problem is not only are we training our own firefighters to act in ways which are totally contrary to the service, but we are now promoting the idea across the entire Web.
The next video features what appears to be another training session. I have yet to determine a valid use for this operation on the fireground:
Young firefighters searching the Web for firefighting clips and training clips see these videos and think this is what firefighting is about, and what they should be trying.
It should be no shock to learn that I am a huge supporter of taping fires and training activities. The value of raw video during fires and training is immense. They are used in fire investigations, fire academies and departments across the world. Close call videos and firefighting videos have been a critical training aide for many lead instructors such as Chief Billy Goldfeder and Chief Vincent Dunn.
Video is the most powerful tool of the fire service in demonstrating the true dangers of firefighting. To read about someone getting injured during a front wall collapse is one thing, but to see it happen with your own eyes leaves a lasting impression.
The video that follows features a firefighter in an office chair with a CO2 Extinguisher:
Proving my point earlier, the first comment below the YouTube version of this video states, "Hahahahah, we did the same thing at our station on night shift last night."
I highly recommend with the changing times to implement new guidelines and procedures in taping and most importantly publishing these videos. Fire departments should consider at a minimum:
Limiting the taping to specific individuals
Establishing a system for approving videos
Review HIPAA privacy requirements
Video coverage should not be used for eavesdropping, listening to, or recording private conversations
About the author
Jason T. Poremba is the owner and creator of Bestfirefightervideo.com, a leading video blog focused on firefighter safety. His 'Close Calls on Camera' section on FR1 won Best Regularly Featured Web column/Trade category in the 2009 Maggie Awards, which honors the region's best publications and Web sites. Jason is currently a 14-year member and captain in an engine company of a volunteer fire department in New York. His specialty training includes rapid intervention, firefighter survival and engine company operations. His passion for firefighting has led him to develop a way to train firefighters via the Web in the dangers of firefighter close calls, and dangerous training and firefighting procedures. In a technological age, videos rule and leave lasting impressions. Jason's hope is to educate firefighters via video to help put an end to unnecessary repeated firefighter mishaps. As well as Jason's videos at Firefighterspot.com, you can also see a selection at FlashoverTV.com. You can contact Jason with feedback at Jason.Poremba@FireRescue1.com.
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Rich FlankeyMonday, November 26, 2012 9:36:45 PMIn the video of the fire fighter slidding throw the pile of foam, Maybe he thought he was being engulfed in fire ball of hydrogen gas since we can't see the flames...... But I truely doubt it.... I'm up for letting off some steam and having fun but there is a time and place, I try very hard not to do anything that would make my chief or department look bad, or give our community any reason to question what kind of people are going to be allowed to save someone they love or know. come on guys think alittle, do it on your own time and not in your stations gear, have pride of the profession that you chose.
Lars DeForgeTuesday, November 27, 2012 12:50:42 PMThis people give firefighters a bad name, these guys are just kids, and real firefighters don't do this, especially posting videos on the internet.
David BostonTuesday, November 27, 2012 4:53:22 PMthe last one was pretty funny.... dangerous but funny.
James Dallas WilliamsTuesday, November 27, 2012 8:28:24 PMI am a 17 year old Fire Tech student in San Bernardino County, CA. Even I can clearly see that this stuff is stupid and dangerous. The glass from the car windows could have cut up the PPE: If you find the cuts BEFORE you're next fire, you're out $1500. If you find it after, you could very well die. The chair stunt was reckless for reasons that I assume nobody here is stupid enough to need an explanation. As for the foam sliding- possibly innocent fun, but training is a time to be serious. It's even worse if they were on duty that day- what if they had gotten a call and everybody was tripping over eachother at a medical call because they choselves in foam?
David BeaulieuWednesday, November 28, 2012 2:46:51 PMdangerous but funny.
Jason JonesWednesday, November 28, 2012 5:27:22 PMKids being kids, anyone who has not not something as silly at some point in their career is either a liar or worked at a very boring dept. The biggest thing is now everyone has a camera phone and they want to post everything to facebook. that last one though is pretty good.
David BostonWednesday, November 28, 2012 5:37:30 PMi laughed pretty hard with the guy spinning around in the chair. Everyone else who commented is so uptight. Glad at least someone else enjoyed it a little.
Patrick J. CottonWednesday, November 28, 2012 5:46:19 PMIf these are the dumbest and most dangerous videos of horsing around you could find, we have nothing to worry about.
Scott PriceThursday, November 29, 2012 5:46:52 AMStunts are stunts, training is training...I think at some period in our career, we have all been guilty of "screwin around" at drills or training meetings. Many departments in the midwest have porta-tank training in the summer-y'know, when the probies get thrown into the porta-tank. The real issue here should be how departments should be developing standards and practices for social media and A/V content.Many departments now make it very clear how pictures and video should be handled on the fire ground and on station property, especially on department time. Do I care if I see my guys jumping into safety glass or a pile of foam? I'll probably shake my head and think, "boys will be boys". As long as I have a pretty stout social media policy, what happens at the station, stays at the station. Just remember what mom says, boys, "Its all fun and games til someone loses and eye"! Be safe!
Shaun MarloweThursday, November 29, 2012 10:44:25 AMKids blowin off steam after training, whats the big deal. Its not like they were doing on the fire ground. Not to mention they were wearing the proper ppe,safety first .curious how many new innovative tactics started as people screwing off.
Dillon EissingThursday, November 29, 2012 1:36:32 PMlol what is a "real" firefighter?
Ryan BradfordFriday, November 30, 2012 9:46:13 AMThe last one is the funniest by far.
Steven YunghansFriday, November 30, 2012 6:14:04 PMI watched these videos with a bit of a smirk I'll admit and we've all done similar things. We know what we deal with in the fire service, we all have our moments of high stress and high boredom and sometimes stupid things like this are the best way to keep moral up and maintain a good working environment, however, the general public is not aware of this. What they see is a firefighter using some thing that looks like a pen or a nail make a small hole in a window after opening then closing the door then punching a big hole through it with his gloved fist. They don't know what a window punch is, they've never worn or used extrication gloves and they CERTAINLY don't understand why you would remove a window in a drill when you can just open the car door. Now here's the guy who just watched the video of a firefighter "vandalizing" a car knowing his own car was broken into a few nights before and the bill he had to pay to get that window replaced and he's fuming mad because a firefighter thought it was funny doing that to someone else's car. He doesn't know it was probably junked and donated for a drill, he just see's it as someone's car. How does that play out in the public eye?
We do things for the public to see, we have demonstrations on fire safety, we have drills and firematic events, hose races and water battles and Hero Rush style competitions that use many of the skills firefighters develop to fight fire and save lives and we make it an event so the public we serve get to see the kinds of things we do inside the burning building or whatever. We do it so they can appreciate the hard work and specialized training, so that they don't balk when city managers need to raise funds to get the gear we need or turn a deaf ear to our pleading to evacuate the house when there's a fire, even if you think you can manage it without dialing 911 and making a huge fuss in the middle of the night.
When you are talking about what's available to the public to see you are talking about Public Relations. That's not just what the chief or IC says in front of a TV camera, it's every comment, every photo, every video clip that gets put out in the a space where any one any where at any time can get access to it and respond to it. That's what shapes the perception of your fire department and you have no control over it. Next time you're at a fire scene, take a moment to see how many people are watching you with cell phones over their faces, they are ALL videotaping you and once they get home, they will put that video on YouTube, you have no control over that and you never will. You only have control over what they are seeing, what they are recording.
You also have control over what YOU are recording, what your partner is recording or another member in your company. Use that control.
Kurtis CookMonday, December 03, 2012 10:36:00 AMI wonder how many firefighters will get a chair and extinguisher out now. That was the best!
Patrick J. CottonMonday, December 03, 2012 10:41:38 AMNot securing the extinguisher (or SCBA bottle) actually is dangerous and possibly expensive.
Tim MillspaughMonday, December 03, 2012 6:47:38 PMFirefighters never really grow up. Not many of us can say we haven't done similar things but we didn't record them. Never leave proof of horseplay.
Keith Enisle HoytTuesday, December 04, 2012 10:00:03 AMI don't care for the boys will be boys attitude, there is no excuse for this type of "grab ass" behavior while training or working as a Firefighter. I have a lot of respect for all firefighters, but this is the kind of behavior I have always thought of as wrong. Where are the dedicated training officers when this crap is going on? We're supposed to "play"(train) the way we work, so that when we work we are professional and efficient in all that we do. This seems more like just playing. If kids want to play, take off the PPE and go find a park or a beach. If you want to represent yourself as a fool, go for it. Just don't do it in uniform and drag the rest of us down with you. As long as you are wearing the gear or uniform representing the fire service, act respectfully of the training and tradition that have gone in to creating the image that you are representing.
Kurtis CookTuesday, December 04, 2012 10:09:33 AMYour just a young proby that has not seen the down side of the fire service yet. Nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam to build moral. The burnout rate for firefighters is going up every year and if having a little fun bothers you than brother your in the wrong business.