Fireground posing and misbehavior: 3 things to never do on the incident scene

Never take photos of patients, snap selfies during operations, or focus more on your helmet cam than the action on scene


Have you seen Chief Goldfeder’s video series “What’s YOUR Problem?” Check out the videos and submit your question for a video response.

For whatever reason, there seems to be some extreme levels of perceived “freedom” that have crept into fire and EMS.

We see this play out in society, with individuals adopting the "I can do whatever I want" attitude, regardless of how it seems to impact others – and we are seeing this attitude on emergency scenes as well. The difference is that while some in North America push the limits of freedom, the fireground and emergency scenes are not areas to exercise our freedoms. In fact, when operating on emergency scenes, we must remember that they aren't our scenes at all.

“Behavior rental agreement”

No professional firefighter who is serious about being a firefighter is focused on their GoPro camera, their smartphone or their desire to do whatever they want on the fireground.
No professional firefighter who is serious about being a firefighter is focused on their GoPro camera, their smartphone or their desire to do whatever they want on the fireground. (Photo/Sean Simmers via MCT)

When we signed on to the fire department, we essentially volunteered for this job, career or vollie; we weren’t drafted or forced.

And in joining the fire department, you agreed to behave a certain way. You essentially signed a “behavior rental agreement,” which means your behavior is being “rented” by the department. You have signed away certain rights granted to non-fire/EMS people who can pretty much do whatever they want, when they want.

You cannot.

This is especially true when working, whether on a run or in quarters. Here we’ll focus on the “on the run” piece.

Bad behavior abounds

In 2021, the evidence is everywhere of firefighters and EMTs engaged in bad incident scene behavior, namely:

  1. Discreetly taking pictures of patients, sharing with only their most “trusted” friends and family, always with the caveat “DON'T SHARE!,” and someone always does or will – I promise.
  2. Grabbing that perfect photo/selfie shot instead of stretching that perfect hoseline.
  3. Pausing to ensure your personal helmet cam is set up to record incident video you’ll upload to social media after the call … or if you have a break, during the call when you’re supposed to be focused on doing your job!

It shouldn't be a big surprise to see this these days, as everyone seems to want to share everything with everyone, regardless of how personal, private or stupid. And that's fine, if you want to take the risk of you posting your own personal stuff because of your deeply rooted need to share, that's your business … but only when it impacts you alone.

When you are posting that quick shot of a victim with burn injuries, the body found in the cesspool, the shooting victim missing part of their head, fire blowing over you and your crew as your line flows no water – you know, stuff like that – you are wrong. Even if it takes 3 seconds, you are wrong because those aren't your 3 seconds. That time belongs to those having the emergency, and those who are counting on you to do your job.

It’s not “free play time” on the fireground

There have been a few close calls lately where firefighters were seriously injured. Preliminary reports in several of these calls show videos of firefighters literally doing “what they want” as opposed to following their operational policies or directions from command.

While we can (and do) rant about firefighters and companies doing what they want to do, EVERY fire department has systems in place to minimize or eliminate that mutt-like behavior. These systems are based on how serious the department is about training, plus those who do the leading at training, in quarters and on runs.

If a firefighter is well-trained, then odds are their “playground behavior” is immediately curtailed or non-existent. No professional firefighter who is serious about being a firefighter is focused on their GoPro camera, their smartphone or their desire to do whatever they want on the fireground. The two mindsets cannot coexist. You can't be a solid firefighter, EMT or whatever you are if your focus is ill-timed photography and “free play time” on the fireground, especially when the emergency remains out of control.

Do your &^%$#* job!

Everyone appreciates great fireground video, hopefully for the obvious learning value. But leave it to the fire buffs and fire photographers to handle that while you do your job. Simply put, put your #$%&!! phone away and do your job as if it is YOUR house on fire, and your family needs urgent help. It is that simple.

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Editor’s note: What’s something that firefighters should NEVER do on an incident scene. Share in the comments below.

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