Opinion: No on-duty or in-uniform social network posts

The public is influenced by what they see and impacted by the perception created by our photos


By Amy Eisenhauer

Recently there have been several news articles about first responders getting into trouble with their social media accounts; such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Historically, the complaint has been that employers are too strict or shouldn't have any say when it comes to personal social media accounts of their employees.

The real question should be, "If you wear a uniform and you represent an organization, do you have a personal responsibility to maintain a professional public persona?"

There is a lot of professional advice devoted to uniform appearance, dressing for success, covering tattoos or piercings, and even delving down to granular details, such as how we speak to patients and other citizens. In the age of social media there's a new factor: how we are perceived by our colleagues and the public.

Unfortunately, when one police officer or one paramedic or one firefighter writes or posts something stupid, ignorant, or just plain dumb the rest of us are impacted, like this recent photo from Philadelphia or news from FDNY last year.

Did you know NYPD does not allow their officers to post photographs of themselves in uniform on their personal social media accounts unless it's a photo from a ceremonial event?

Many of us take photos in our EMS uniforms when we have a few minutes of down time and we're joking around the station. If we post these photos online will the public understand our humor or what we're doing? Could those "joking around" photos, which we might believe are completely innocent, tarnish our image? Could those photos, such as the ones in Philadelphia, harm our brothers and sisters in the fire service and law enforcement?

Would it be difficult for you to not post or share work-related photos, especially given all the hours we work and that most of our friends are also in EMS? 

I am encouraging you to think twice about what you post on your social media accounts. The public does not always see “Police,” “Fire,” or “EMS;” they see a uniform. When we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves.

About the Author

Amy Eisenhauer has been a prehospital provider in New Jersey for over 18 years working in both clinical and educational roles within the EMS community. She hosts TheEMSsiren.com, a blog on EMS which engages providers and strives to improve the EMS community as a whole. You can contact her at theEMSsiren@gmail.com.

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