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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Social media challenges for fire departments

We all know that we are held to a different (higher) standard than other people

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Firefighters in Wichita, Kansas, are being barred from using social networking sites while on-duty under new rules drafted by the department. Chief Adam K. Thiel, our editorial advisor, gives his thoughts below.

As this story demonstrates, both employers and employees, including those in government organizations like fire departments, will continue facing challenges from the increasing prevalence of social media.

Beyond the legal requirements and workplace policies, we know that firefighters and EMS personnel often "live the job," well beyond their departments, stations, shifts, companies, and units.

When was the last time you saw an attorney wearing a T-shirt with the name of their firm plastered across the back?

While this level of pride is generally a great thing, and a characteristic many employers would love to see in their employees, it also raises a host of ethical issues that are particularly important given the current national debate about government, and government workers (career and volunteer, as most citizens neither know, nor care about, the difference).

We know that we are held to a different (higher) standard than other people.

Like most things in life, that brings both opportunities and challenges.

Hopefully, as a service, we can successfully navigate the uncharted waters of the Internet in a way that respects both our members and the public trust.

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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