Safety ADHPD (Attention Deficit Hyper Photography Disorder)

By Ray McCormack

While culture is debated, not everyone within a culture follows the same norms. Some are cultural purists, some are cultural part timers, some are side liners, and some culturally neutral. Then there are the zealots who display ADHPD about safety.

You need to be a safety zealot and narcissist to display symptoms of the disorder. To Web surfers, this disorder manifests itself in several common and visceral ways. The most common is to critique what most would think was a fairly safe fire scene photo until they spot someone not actively engaged in the action without their gloves on. Now, a firefighter near flames or a firefighter pulling a jagged piece of metal without gloves would be an obvious hazard; to the ADHPD firefighter, the entire photo is condemned for the perceived sins of one.

The offender doesn’t have to be near the action, they just have to be in the photo because, according to a ADHPD firefighter, if the photo is posted, it’s open season. Even hunting seasons have rules, but the zealot doesn’t respect rules when it comes to fire scene photo violators. Everyone in the photo must be punished for a single missing piece of PPE. Is omission all you see? If it is, you are missing so much.

Living in virtual anonymity, today’s armchair critic demonizes those who allow the slightest infraction to pass. What brings on such loyalty to cause? It’s not subject matter expertise. It is not experience. It is not informed debate. It is the need to be heard. It is the need to chastise with moral superiority. It is with righteous indignation they let you know that they are correct and all others must conform.

Well, for all those who feel the need to critique the one-second-in-time flaw that filled their monitor or cell phone screen, go right ahead, but just remember: you’re boring us. Fire scene photos go up by the hundreds daily on the Internet. Critiquing them for best in “Equipment Omission” does not solve safety issues. It makes you look petty.

There are Web sites that thrive on such criticism, where viewers are encouraged to support the tear-down process. Take your criticism there; find others who share your zeal for being the first to spot a flaw and for being the safest firefighter on the Internet, says you. Such pompousness is displayed constantly in the comment sections of photos and videos.

Do some photos cry out for commentary? Yes, they do, and discussion is fine when it comes to tactics, but equipment omission as a subject category is getting old. Maybe you could have someone take a photo of your perfect fireground.

On the recent West (TX) deaths, one editor lamented that it would soon become the Charleston fire of the volunteer world. Could it happen in Critic’s Corner? You bet! These incidents could happen anywhere.

We are a culture that believes finding fault along with corrective solutions will bring fewer faults. While I agree, balanced study is vastly different than petty deconstruction. Try and enjoy fire scene photography and lay off the criticism a bit or the people who bring it to us will get tired of providing us with such beauty and history.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Ray McCormack: Tactical Safety for FirefightersRAY McCORMACK is a 30-year veteran and a lieutenant with FDNY. He is the publisher and editor of Urban Firefighter Magazine. He delivered the keynote address at FDIC in 2009 and he is on the Editorial Board of Fire Engineering Magazine. For more on Urban Firefighter, visit



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