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Fire department social media best practices

In this tip from risk expert Gordon Graham, he explains the community benefits of an active fire department social media presence

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all my friends in the fire service, and it’s about social media.

Your department probably has an active social media presence. If not, it should. Let’s spend a few minutes, though, talking about some do’s and don’ts.

Social media is a vital part of how your department communicates with the community you serve. You should identify what goals you want your department’s social media presence to accomplish. Is it community awareness and engagement? To improve recruitment efforts? To promote other community activities or groups? Provide an additional means of alerting the public to emergency situations? Maybe it’s all the above. Regardless, social media is now an invaluable and necessary part of your strategy and service.

Posting high-quality content supports your department’s professional image. Select videos and photos that are both useful and interesting to the public. Training exercises, rescues caught on helmet cam, daily activities at the fire station, and details on upcoming events are all good options. Educational content and public service announcements are equally important.

Your department should have a clearly defined social media policy. You should clearly define who has administrative access and responsibility for your department’s social media pages. And these members should be trained in the use of social media. Avoid leaving what can be posted to a member’s subjective discretion, common sense, or good judgment. Instead, the policy should also provide guidelines for what can and cannot be posted.

For example, avoid sharing content about active incidents unless you need to advise the public of some action they need to take. Also avoid posting video and images where members of the public, patients, or victims can be identified. Personally, I believe that patient and victim videos and images should never be posted, even with permission. Why? Because doing so can decrease the trust of the public you serve and increase the risk of a HIPAA violation, or possibly criminal or civil liability.

An active and up-to-date social media presence with relevant content encourages your community to turn to your department for information. It makes you a reliable, trusted source of information. Does it come with risks? Sure. But good policy backed by training can help you manage those risks and reap the benefits.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham, signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.