Letters to the Editor: September 2019

Social media and leadership

Leadership is becoming more difficult to come by in today’s fire service. The fire service is saturated with social media, networking, and advertising.

Although social media and the Internet have played a great role in communications and opportunity in the fire service, they have also had negative impacts. The world is full of opinions, and social media opens the door to keyboard heroes badgering and bashing; posting negative comments; and critiquing other people, departments, and organizations. Social media platforms have allowed firefighters and first responders to create a look-at-me epidemic.

It is becoming more common to see firefighters obsessed with constantly reminding the world that they are firefighters vs. letting their involvement and commitment to the organization and community do the talking. I have seen firefighters spend more time talking and in conversations about Internet firefighters and in what they are selling or advertising than I have firefighters who have made a respectful difference in the service. We all know the type of firefighter I’m describing; we probably have at least one in our department. These firefighters are in career, combination, and volunteer fire departments and train the least but complain the most. They appear at every event for the recognition but are unprepared and unskilled when it matters the most.

Fire service leaders have not only the difficult tasks of daily operations, crew management, and leading by example but they also have a challenge to regroup or gather companies and personnel. Leaders in the fire service need to get back to the fundamentals and to the training ground. They need to put down the phones and put some ladders, hose, and tools in their hands. Fire officers need to inform others about fire service leaders, mentors, and those who have paved the way; give the youth and upcoming firefighters street experience and credit; and show the value of the job’s commitment to the community and department they serve vs. T-shirt firefighters. So many people have made a great impact on the fire service before social media gave them a platform to advertise themselves. I respect the dedication and passion of leaders and mentors such as John Salka, Rick Lasky, Andy Starnes, John Shafer, and so many others. These firefighters have specialized dedication to provide more and better training to those in the service today by sharing and passing on their knowledge and love for the job.

Social media is a great resource for information sharing and communication, but it can easily create a world of false interpretation, which is not what the fire service needs.

Eric Jones
Captain, Training Officer, Fire Investigator
Scottsburg (IN) Fire Department

Drawn by Fire, from Paul Combs

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