Firefighters love pictures! And, they love taking pictures. Technological advances have made it easier than ever to take on-scene photos and videos. And, there are innumerable outlets for downloading them to the Internet and to personal devices. But, have you ever thought about the potential...
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There is one additional important consideration for departments drafting a photography policy. Photos and videos make excellent documentation and can serve as valuable evidence for lawyers on either side of a lawsuit. They also can provide documentation of unsafe practices by the department, making the department itself vulnerable. Departments should be very careful about which pictures it publishes through any means.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned is that departments need to have a well-reasoned policy that is well communicated to its employees and/or volunteers. This will not stop unofficial photography, but it will protect the department and make clear to all what is expected of members. As Kragas notes, it is a lot cheaper to avoid a problem with a good policy than to litigate a problem after the fact.
STEVE BLACKISTONE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a Maryland attorney who directs state and local liaison activities for an agency of the federal government. Prior to his current position, he served in a variety of posts on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives, working both on the personal staffs of members of Congress and on congressional committees. Blackistone also is an active volunteer EMT/firefighter with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, MD.