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 exploreharford.com 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!