Chiefs Find New Ways to Communicate

BALTIMORE, Md. --

View Coverage of Firehouse Expo 2010

Baltimore Fire Chief James Clack has been one of the most proactive chiefs in the country when it comes to using social media.

"I really have a lot of ways to interact with our workforce," he said during a session at Firehouse Expo today that also include Syracuse Fire Chief Mark McLees and Memphis Fire Chief Alvin Benson.

Clack has a Facebook account and updates his profile on a daily basis.

"It's much more intimate and allows me to field questions and concerns," he said. "Many of them are about things that go on at the stations that don't break the rules, but that employees want to let me know about."

Last year he began posting to the public safety message board TheWatchDesk.com, but stopped when anonymous posters began writing inappropriate responses to the chief. He said that while he enjoyed sharing ideas on a public Web site, it not as controlled as he would have liked.

He now only posts to the message boards on the Web sites of the city's firefighters union and fire officers union. He said that it is another tool he can use to keep lines of communication open between him and his employees.

Benson said his department currently doesn't use social media for the same reason Clack stopped posting on public Web sites. His staff has been looking into a format that would limit the conversation to only him and the firefighters.

McLees said that while he doesn't use online social media, his department does produce a "Chat With the Chief" television show that is shown in stations throughout the city. The seven minute show allows him to provide updates and answer questions that are submitted before the show is taped.

"They love it," he said. "The firefighters like that fact that I'm sharing info with them."

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