Think twice before you post that!

Bel Air's Main Street, Winter 2008

Bel Air’s Main Street, Winter 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post by: Kim Stephens

I like some of the aphorisms  about what people should post on their personal social media account that have made their way into policy. My favorite is: “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your momma to see.” Another one I like: “Don’t be stupid.” Some volunteer firefighters in my hometown could have done well to live by either of those rules, but instead three of them have been suspended and a fourth faces a demotion.

Our local online paper reported yesterday that some Bel Air volunteer firefighters  were upset about not getting a discount at a local Sonic restaurant, even though military and police members do.  One volunteer proceeded to post his displeasure on his personal facebook page and others commented. Reading through some of the statements, it is understandable why they found themselves in a bit of trouble:

  • Even when myself and a full engine crew are in turnout gear at Sonic for lunch, the manager still says only police and military get discounts. Cool, thanks we appreciate the support.
  • Let’s make sure they don’t get a response.
  • Go set the Dumpster on fire.
  • Wait till its on fire, then see what he says.

According to the paper,  the fire chief Eddie Hopkins stated that Bel Air has a social media policy for members, which he said “respects the right to free speech” but does not permit “comments such as I read; we don’t tolerate that.”  Hopkins also said firefighters routinely post photos on Facebook from the scene of fires, “We have had people working on a fire and saying, ‘Isn’t this a cool pic [picture]?'”

“I understand about the photos and comments like that,” he said. “I don’t tolerate what happened here. It’s hurtful to me personally and hurts the credibility of the fire and EMS service.”

Although these posts were made to one of the volunteer’s personal page, this incident should serve as a reminder that nothing you say on a social network is private. If I was a fire chief I’d reinforce my own policy training by printing out this story and reading it to my team. And I would say: DONT BE STUPID!

Read full story here:,0,2843042.story


3 responses to “Think twice before you post that!

  1. Wow! How amazing that these firefighters would look upon a discount as some kind of entitlement. There are ethical issues with firefighters accepting discounts in the first place – just like with police officers. Does offering a discount to firefighters set expectations that the next fire inspection will go easy on potential life safety hazards? Does not offering a discount set the expectations that firefighters will respond more slowly to a business fire or use only defensive tactics? A discount is a generous gift from a business – but a discount also opens the perception of potential ethical gaps. To demand a gift is offensive and violates the trust given to firefighters by the community. When offered, firefighters should say thanks for acknowledging our work but we’ll pay full price.

  2. Pingback: #SMEM – Think twice before you post that! | #UASI

  3. Pingback: Module 4: Social Media Policy, Personal Use-Public Job | Western Mass SMEM

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