Do no harm

Ga. firefighter's video of fatal crash victim upsets family

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: With a Georgia county looking into whether any rules were violated by a firefighter taking graphic cell phone video of a fatal crash, our Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel gives his take on the story below.

I still recall the phrase from my first day of EMT school almost 20 years ago — do no harm.

It is our primary duty to everyone we encounter, whether a patient on an EMS call, a homeowner during a structure fire, or the driver of an adjacent vehicle when responding to an emergency call.

It may seem harmless, or even helpful, to take photos of incident scenes. We've probably all done it at some point.

As this story demonstrates, however, sometimes those photos can actually cause harm.

Hopefully, we are all smart enough not to take photos where patients' faces or identities are compromised; doing so could violate federal law, but more importantly, it breaches our ethical duty to the people we serve.

Being scrupulous about what we share regarding our jobs, and with whom, is even more important with the rise of social media and the potential worldwide exposure these websites provide.

Always remember that our duty to protect the public stretches well beyond the emergency. 

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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