Treat The Media The Same As You Would The Public

Remember that we are responsible for the media’s safety just as well as the general public.Happens all the time, barricade tape is put up to keep onlookers and the media out of an emergency scene, and yet there are some from the public that get past the...


type='node' cid='66793' />Remember that we are responsible for the media’s safety just as well as the general public.Happens all the time, barricade tape is put up to keep onlookers and the media out of an emergency scene, and yet there are some from the public that get past the tape and the media ask, "if they're up there, why can't we?"

depending on local ordinances and state laws, the media should be treated as equals to the general public and in some areas, they may have access to areas the public is not allowed to be in.

At any incident scene a safety perimeter should be immediately established and "everyone" that is not directly connected to scene management should be kept out of the area. Once command is in control and the scene is stable, some access to the scene should be granted to the media if it is possible. This does not mean they should be right on top of the incident, but somewhat closer. Here are some of the ways I do it:

2. After meeting with the Incident Commander and gathering information about the incident, I look for a place, which is close to the incident that will give the media a visual advantage so they can report the story more accurately. Usually it is across the street from the incident, away from equipment and hoses. After finding that place, I check with the Incident Commander to see if it is permissible to establish a media area close to the scene and describe its location. If approved, I return to the media to escort them to the new media area. If not approved, I explain to the media that the scene is not safe enough for closer access and give them what information is available.

3. Escort the media to the new media area if approved. They should be told that they cannot wander around the incident scene and must stay within the designated media area. BE FIRM. You are responsible for their safety and must control their actions. While in the media area, I explain the actions of the firefighters, answer any questions they have and provide any updates when possible.

4. If some of the media arrives late, they should be told to stay at the safety perimeter (barricade tape) until you can escort them to the media area. Anyone that wants to leave the media area to return to outside the safety perimeter should be escorted out.

5. If anyone slips past the safety perimeter, they should be escorted back outside the area or into the media area.

Many times the media will ask if they can go on the property of where the incident occurred. Members of the fire service and PIOs are not permitted to give permission to the media to access private property. Only the property owner can do that. I have had some Incident Commanders tell me that when the fire department is in control of an incident, they are in charge of the property. I would advise against this, you could find yourself in a civil lawsuit case. It is not worth it.

In some cases departments will give access to special photojournalist and photographers to fire scenes while keeping the rest of the media and public back. If you give access to one, you have to give it to everyone. What works for me is to explain to the media that we have special photographers or photojournalists working on a special story and we may be giving them special access. Those on special assignment have to wear a special blue MEDIA vest while doing their story. When done that way, 99.9% of the time I receive no complaints from the media. They would want the same special treatment if they were doing a special story and they will respect you more for being honest with them.

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