Allowing Fans to Tag Photos on Facebook

Engagement is key in social media.  A great way to keep the public engaged in social media is for them to interact with your photographs.  This is one thing that Facebook does really well for personal pages and something your ‘fans’ will be comfortable with.  Unfortunately, the ability for fans to tag photos on your Fire Department Facebook page is not allowed by default.

After several attempts to find the option to allow fans to tag photos, I finally found where it was buried on the “new” Facebook.  If you’d like your FD Facebook page to have this option (which I would hope you would if you want to be successful), follow the directions below.

  1. Click on “Edit Page” in the top right corner of your FD Fan Page.
  2. Along the left side of your screen, click on “Apps.”
  3. In the center of your screen, find the heading labeled “Photos.”
  4. Under photos, click “Go to App.”
  5. Select the radio button next to “Allow all fans to tag photos.”

Voila!  You’ve now enabled your fans to become engaged by tagging themselves and friends on your page.  Congratulations!

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Fire Department Fundraising 2.0


Wanted: new, innovative approach to fundraising for volunteer fire departments.  future of department dependent on succes.  Willing to pay $0.  Only serious inquiries please.

I’ve written recently about issues surrounding the use of social media.  I’ve yet though to really hit some of the major benefits social media can have for the fire service, particularly volunteer departments.  Today I saw a very innovative approach to fundraising that took advantage of social media platforms.

Fundraising via social media

I first noticed the innovative approach on my Twitter stream the other evening.  Via Twitter, I saw the following tweet from @bpvfd103:  “WV Fire Dept trying to raise money for fire dept and get new volunteers 1800-fire-line”  The tweet piqued my interest enough to click the link.  I must saw I was impressed by what I saw.

The above link directs you to a Facebook page devoted to raising funds for the Bradley-Prosperity Volunteer Fire Department (official site).  This fundraising approach provides a very convenient means to promote the cause and accept donations. According to the site, the fire department is raising funds to

“buy new bunker gear for our other members who have not got new gear yet.  Also need to replace our rescue truck which got totaled on WV Turnpike in May 2009 and we did not have enough insurance on to cover the loss. any donation of $20.00 or more gets you one of our supporter t-shirts.”

The tool: Facebook’s FundRazr application

Facebook has created an ideal platform to promote fundraising activities.  Via a neat Facebook application called FundRazr, you can easily create a fundraising drive.  Within the FundRazr app, users are able to:

  1. see the reason for the fundraiser
  2. see the amount already raised
  3. select an amount they would be willing to give
  4. donate via a secure PayPal connection
  5. easily share links to the fundraiser via Twitter, Facebook, or HTML link

We’ve seen the success of using technology to improve fundraising activities following the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.  Facebook now provides an easy and simple to use platform for volunteer departments to improve/promote their fundraising efforts.

Check out the site.  If you don’t feel like sending any money to the department, just leave your $0.02 on the efforts in the comments section below.

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Takeaways from FDIC

My last post discussed the events of my FDIC 2011 experience.  My FDIC experience didn’t end though on Friday.  Much of my experience will endure for quite some time.  In particular, I brought back three key takeaways from the whole event.  I’ll touch on the three key points below individually in upcoming posts.

  1. We need a professionalized fire service
  2. Networking really is important
  3. If you listen, people will share some amazing ideas.

A professional fire service

One of the most enjoyable discussions of the week came Thursday evening with Mike Ward (aka FossilMedic).  I was fortunate enough that evening to hear Mr. Ward discuss his thoughts on the professionalization of the fire service.  The discussion began about his experiences in with higher education organizations but quickly hit the lack of a ‘body of knowledge’ in the fire service.  He compared the fire service of today to the emergency room physicians of many years ago.  It was only through years of hard work and effort in creating an official ‘body of knowledge’ that emergency physicians were considered to be a true profession.

We both agreed that the fire service needs to head in a direction of professionalization.  To do so requires us to create our own body of knowledge.  A body of knowledge requires research.  Research requires PhD’s.  PhD’s require several years of hard work and paper writing.  Any volunteers?

Seriously though, I think this is the direction the fire service needs to head.  In fact, the need for a professional fire service was one of the key topics that lead Patrick and I to form this blog.  While the idea of professionalizing the fire service may seem daunting, I’m pleased with some of our progress.  For instance, the fire service has already begun to collect a body of research within the International Fire Service Journal of Leadership and Management from my alma mater, Oklahoma State University.  We in the fire service have also benefited a great deal from research performed by Underwriters Laboratories and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  We don’t need to start a revolution.  Rather, we simply need to maintain the momentum that these other organizations have started for us.

Professionalization at FDIC

I did have two other experiences during FDIC that gave me hope that the fire service could be seen as a true profession.  The first glimmer of hope was actually my first event at FDIC, the International Fire Instructor Workshop.  The workshop brought together several instructors from across the globe to discuss research impacting the fire service.  Topics covered research pertaining to the need to gauge the emotional intelligence of fire service applicants to best methods to handle tunnel emergencies.  I was impressed by the presentations and the hard research that many of these individuals had put into the fire service.  Their efforts will go a long way to creating a professional image of the fire service on an international level.

United Nations Year of the Firefighter

In fact, several of the instructors at the workshop are actively petitioning the United Nations for an International Year of the Firefighter (hey, if the potato can have a year, why not the fire service?).  Such a declaration would funnel a significant amount of funds towards true academic research of fire service topics.  I’ll continue to monitor their progress and report back as I hear more.  I’ve also included a short video at the bottom to give you an idea about what the IFIW workshop consisted of (the video is from 2010 but many of the same researchers were at FDIC 2011).

Professionalizing our books

A second glimmer of hope was found in a book I purchased during the event.  I had been following The Fire Service Warrior for several months and had the pleasure to run into the author, Christopher Brennan, at the Fire Engineering book store.  I picked up a copy of his book, “The Combat Position: Achieving Firefighter Readiness” and took to reading it as soon as I got home.  I was particularly impressed with the number of references at the end of the chapters.  Not only were the references numerous, but they were of good intellectual quality and covered a wide range of sources rather than simple references to Fire Engineering magazine articles.  While perhaps not rising to the level found in academic journals, this is most certainly a step in the right direction.  Hopefully, the majority of books that are published in the future will have this level of research and referencing.

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My FDIC Experience

I returned home late Friday night from FDIC.  I had hoped my first experience at the conference would have lasted through Saturday but we decided to make the trip home a night early to beat some incoming winter weather.  Even with the early departure, I had an absolute blast.  The whole experience was well beyond any of my wildest imaginations.

I owe a large part of my experience to Tiger Schmittendorf and the rest of the Fire-EMS Blog gang.  I hope they understand how much of an impact they all had on a this young Missouri kid.  Thanks guys!


The week started with a two-day International Fire Instructor Workshop (Monday and Tuesday).  I was overwhelmed by the quality of training (particularly on fire behavior principles) from our international counterparts.  By Tuesday afternoon, I had heard presentations by instructors from Canada, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, and Ireland.  The audience was just as diverse as the presenters and all came to share their experiences and insight.  I sincerely hope that FDIC will continue to bring this group together in Indianapolis.

I had the good fortune to network with several other instructors at the ISFSI Social on Tuesday evening.  Again, I learned a great deal from these instructors from all across the US.  The best part of the evening was a chance meeting with Tiger Schmittendorf.  I intended only to thank him for his work in promoting volunteer recruitment initiatives on his blog and his recognition of firefighter live-in programs.  The conversation continued for several hours on a wide variety of training and recruitment topics related to the volunteer fire service.  I picked up several ideas and insights from the meeting and only wish the transfer of insight would not have been so one-sided.


Wednesday began the classroom sessions of the conference.  I was thoroughly impressed with each of the classroom sessions that I sat in on.  The quality of instruction was top notch.  I’ve listed the classroom sessions that I was able to experience at the bottom.  Each of the instructors should be proud of their contribution to FDIC 2011.  I also had the good fortune on Wednesday to meet Rhett Fleitz, Willie Wines Jr, and John Mitchell for lunch at Claddaugh’s Irish Pub.


The last big experience came Thursday evening when I had the opportunity to meet the above mentioned folks as well as Dave Statter, Dave Iannone, Chris Naum, and Mike Ward.  To say I was in awe would be the understatement of the year.  I had a tremendous time that evening and learned a great deal.

All in all, FDIC 2011 was a complete success for me.  I had heard from many people how great this conference was but had never had an opportunity to attend.  My first time though far exceeded anything anyone had described to me before.

My next post will include some of my biggest takeaways from the weeklong journey.

Classroom Sessions:

  • Training Officer Liabilities – John Murphy
  • Improving and Maintaining Good Instructors – Scott Carrigan
  • Officer Development Programs – Rudy Horist
  • Firefighter Free Speech – “Chip” Comstock
  • Hottest Legal Topics – Curt Varone
  • Understanding and Motivating Today’s Firefighters – Tiger Schmittendorf
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Social Media – Live Exercise

We can talk about the importance and usefulness of Social Media in emergency management until we’re blue in the face.  The reality however is that we can’t truly grasp the usefulness of SM until we see it in action.

I suggest you use this opportunity now to create a free Twitter account and try to follow the preparations and response to the tsunami threat.   To start, follow @CraigatFEMA and @LAFDTalk for current information.  Also search the hashtags #tsunami, #catsunami, #ortsunami, and #watsunami for tsunami information for each coastal state.

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Obstacles to Social Media in the Fire Service

During the Social Media class that I taught at the Missouri Winter Fire School, the one question that I got more than any other was what obstacles stand in the way of Fire Department’s embracing social media. I did the best that I could to give my insight, but felt my answers didn’t truly live up to the depth of the question.

Luckily, fellow No Ambition But One contributor Patrick recently turned me on to a new blog, It’s Not My Emergency. One of the posts to the blog recently hit on the very question that many of my students had been inquiring about. In the blogger’s opinion, the following is a simple list of the obstacles to social media use:

  • Culture
  • Bureaucracy
  • Security
  • ICS

To see the full review of obstacles to implementing social media in the fire service, visit the site.

What are your thoughts?  What’s keeping social media from taking hold of the fire service like it has in so many other professions.  I’d love to hear your input in the comments!

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Should you use social media to hire your next firefighter?

As a member of the fire service, I know how important the selection of future firefighters can be. We are a very tight knit group. Once you get in, you’re in til retirement. These are the people we trust, spend the majority of our time with, and the people we rely on to save our life. That’s heavy stuff. To make sure we get the right person for the job, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we select the right person. For some departments, that may mean turning to the applicant’s social media account for insights into the personality and potential. When you go to make the decision on your next firefighter, should you peruse their social media accounts?

If you follow the Shear on Social Media blog, you noticed recently that he posted a link about the Maryland Division of Corrections requirement for social media usernames and passwords during their interviews. The article posted gives a great overview of such a request for hiring decisions. Unfortunately, just like in the AMR settlement, the courts have not really settled the issue of whether or not organizations should be able to require social media account logins.

If the issue of social media account information has yet to be settled concretely, should your Fire Department use such a practice to hire new candidates. While the courts have not settled the issue of requiring login information in interviews, the courts have weighed in heavily regarding what information is appropriate and legal in making hiring decisions. Organizations, including Fire Departments, are only allowed to base their hiring decisions on job specific requirements. Further, these decisions must not in any way discriminate against any individuals in a protected class.

So what does that mean?

If you do decide to peruse a potential candidate’s Facebook account, you need to provide some assurance that the hiring decision will only be based on job specific information and will in no way discriminate against any individuals based on race, age, gender, religion, or disability. In principle, this sounds relatively simple. However, such assurances prove much more difficult in practice. To be safe, it would be best to have someone familiar with the requirements for hiring decisions review the social media accounts of the applicants rather than the selection committee as a whole. This person can serve as a buffer between the social media account and the selection committee by only passing along job relevant information.

The next question yet to be answered is what would be considered ‘job relevant information’ for the position of firefighter. It may seem somewhat simple for firefighters to proclaim that any information on a social media account (status updates, foul language, inappropriate pictures) to be ‘job relevant’ because of our requirement to uphold the public’s trust as firefighters. As a practice though, I tend to view job relevant information much more narrowly to avoid any undue influence.


Using social media can be a slippery slope. Once you take the step to begin using social media in your hiring process, you open a pandora’s box. The potential now exists for non-job relevant information to leak into the hiring process and hold your Fire Department open to legal action – particularly if any of the information could point to discrimination based on a protected class. To make sure your department is protected, you should include the use of social media accounts in your hiring policy before its too late.

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