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  • Need some opinions

    Ok, this is for a research paper. I need opinions about media on the scene of an emergency. Are they distractions? Would you rather not have them there? What are your reasons for your opinion? This would be greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone.

  • #2
    Probably not much help here. Smaller community (100,000) I'm in, we all know each other. They know the limits before they cross them and who they need to talk to on scene. The 24 yrs. I've been on, I can count on one hand the trouble we have had with the media.

    As for me? I'm a ham and enjoy seeing myself in my 15 minutes. Right... They have just as much right to be there as I do as long as they do not impede with the operation of the incident. There have been a coupla times that I have useed them at night (real bright lights on that mini-cam) before rescue has gotten there.

    Another plus for Small Town, U.S.A., is that we usually get a copy of their tape por nada. We do invite our media out to training exercises and run them through with our cadets, so we have a pretty good rapport with them.


    Just my opinions, not my departments. If they are alike, it usually means somethin's gonna happen!


    • #3
      Positive public relations with the media can be an advantage to any fire department. The role of the PIO is important here. You know that they are going to show up at every major incident...so use them to the advantage! You have a story to tell....they have a deadline to meet and could use the story. You can also invite the media to cover specialized training drills, promotional ceremonies, recruit graduations, anything to keep your FD is a positive light.

      Troll911 is correct about the lights used on the minicams...they are a hell of a lot brighter than anything we have on the rigs!

      Firefighters: rising under adverse conditions to accept the challenge!
      Captain Gonzo


      • #4
        You really cant interfere with them unless they are putting themselves or you or an investigation in danger. Also while they are filming away, any mistakes that are made are hard to justify when its caught on tape/film.


        • #5
          To many departments just ignore the media and it shows when it comes to their stories. Wrong information along with making the department look bad. The PIO or chief officer must address the media's questions and allow them some latitude to obtain their pictures. But, also keep them out of danger.
          A good story in the media can affect the public's opionon of their department.


          • #6
            One of our classes in NYS (Public Safety Critical Incident Management) teaches us how to use the media to our benefit. Occasionally they can be pushy, but if given a time and place that they can get their information they tend to be cooperative and understanding. The key is if you give them a time stick to it.
            There was an incident in my county about a year and a half ago where some flammable water reactive solids were disposed of in a field. It was a rainy day and the chemicals started a fire. When the TV news showed up an information exchange was arranged between the PIO and one of the local news channels. The news van would be allowed in if they would allow the PIO in to view the scene through the mast cam prior to the feed being put on TV. The PIO also got the meterologist to give a prediction of the when next Thunderstorm cell was going to be moving through the area.
            I think the benefits of improved PR and what I mentioned above far outweigh any inconvenience they may impose.

            Shawn M. Cecula
            Lewiston Fire Co. No. 2


            • #7
              From a freelancer's perspective.... You might want to look into "cultivating" one for your dept. Many newspapers are open to "fill" pieces. Either very short stories that will fit into small unused spaces in their paper, or flashy photographs, for the same reason.

              Do you know any firebuffs? Find one who is sypathetic to the dept. Invite them to hang around the station for an evening, or better yet get the "legalities" taken care of to take them on a ride-along. If you find someone (not necessarily a full time reporter - they'll have other interests and commitments) that's really interested in firefighting, that's what you're looking for.

              Once you find them, treat them right (inside stories, profiles of firefighters, background, etc.) Then, whenever something big (or bad) happens, find them, and have them do the piece (or counter). It will be more likely to put you "in a good light". If they're true fire buffs, they're likely to be there already. A fire buff or ex- (or retired) firefighter will know your business. They'll know to stay out of the way. And they'll want to HELP you get good press, not be looking for ways to embarass you.

              And if they're photographers, they'll probably want shots of your stations and apparatus, and will give you prints for your scrap books and web pages, too.


              • #8
                Okay, right off, let me say that I am a media buff. I enjoy seeing what is going on in the world around me.
                BUT. When the media gets in the way, or makes our already difficult job even harder, that I can do without.
                Let me back up my claims. During the tragedy at the Murah(??) Fed. building, the media trucks were so thick, and they had so many aerials, that they actually "stole" almost all the available bandwidth, and made it much harder for communications to be set up.
                During the Colombine(??) affair, as parents watched the high school where their sons and daughters attended, just guess at the amount of angry/frightened/hysterical parents that showed up and demanded that their sons/daughters be kept safe. Imagine if one of the shooters had a scoped weapon, or if they managed to escape out and get into the crowds of parents and rubberneckers. That's a s***load of pine wood boxes, folks.
                In conclusion, yeah, the media is great and spiffy and wonderful.... But only when they are polite, understanding, and use at least an ounce of compassion. Otherwise, keep'em off the scene.

                "I hate it when someone says something is impossible, because then I have to go and find a way to do it."
                Whatever it is, I didn't do it, and I don't know anything about a fire. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
                Stay safe, boys and girls. It's for keeps out there.


                • #9
                  Think about this: a media relations course handbook I have says, "A well groomed and well fed news media is one of the most valuable tools a fire department can have."

                  While I feel the media has helped some fire departments with recruitment, fund raising, prevention, and other important issues my gripes are with the 24/7 'instant' TV news, and with newspapers that publish stories that rely solely upon anonymous 'informed sources' for the who, what, when, where, and why of their story.

                  24/7 TV news directors must begin to use much more discretion, especially where minor children and/or mass casualties are involved. I recently saw live news footage of a mini-school bus crash. One parent learned of her child's injuries by seeing her bandaged and bleeding daughter on television. In addition, a neighbor of mine turned her TV on and saw that her sister's workplace was under seige by a former worker turned armed madman. While our media outlets all have a clear right to inform us some discretion should be shown.

                  Mistakes happen: one newspaper headline read, "Fire damages two cars in vacant garage." Funny things can happen, but a whole lot of fire department news often has absolutley nothing to do with any actual fire. News stories concerning other fire department issues like hiring, equipment purchases, promotions and etc are often based on some anonymous un-named source, an 'expert' of some kind whose comments are only throwing gas on a burning issue; and that ain't funny. News writers have to know the difference between a story and a non-story.


                  • #10

                    As the Chief of a small rural department, 30 members protecting 1,000 persons, we were completely unprepared for the onslaught of media during the aftermath of the SWISSAIR air crash. ( I was Chief for less than two months at the time. )

                    We were the first FD to respond since the crash was within our area of service although 5 miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Within 90 minutes our small community was overwhelmed by satelite trucks and news crews. Once the feds moved the ops centre to another community this entire circus was gone in minutes.

                    That night our station received calls from around the world looking for info. We were pleasant but firm that any info would come from the feds, RCMP, since it was not our place to comment. In total over 60 media outlets from Australia to Finland called.

                    With the exception of a few "pushy" reporters trying to occupy areas that we set aside as a staging area for anticipated operations, which never were needed, most of the media did as they were told. We had designated a local church as a media centre and posted a time when there would be initial briefings by the RCMP.

                    Unfortunately due to a lack of confirmed info this scheduled time kept getting moved back. All fd members were asked to keep quiet with the little info they had in order to maintain consistency of info.

                    I agree with comments about the medias ability to overwhelm the cellular capabilities of a community, it happened here as well.

                    Dealing with the media doesn't have to be just for large centres, the media can end up in anyones district big or small. Be prepared and have a plan as to who will speak to the media. You cannot ignore them. Use them to your benefit. They are a great resource.

                    I hope this helps.

                    Train Hard and Train Safe.

                    Philip Publicover, Fire Chief
                    District #1 Fire Department
                    Blandford, N.S., Canada
                    E-mail [email protected]


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