Medics fighting with media: A training failure

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: With a reporter's clash with an ambulance crew member being captured on camera at the scene of a house fire, Art Hsieh offers some lessons to learn in media relations.


Not only did I wince when the emergency responder struck the camera, I was also struck by the notion that a little training could go a long way. WIthout knowing all of the details, it was painful to hear the person declare that she had every right to not be recorded. Unfortunately, that's not true, and in the brief few seconds of interaction, an opportunity was lost to maintain positive relations with the press,

There are some basic tips to follow if you are set upon by the media:

1) Follow your department policies. Most policies will dictate what you can do, say or otherwise interact with the media. Frankly, most department policies give you the out to NOT interact with reporters by having you refer all questions to the Public Information Officer (PIO), chief, supervisor, or some other person. Thus, you can continue to perform your job.

2) Media, as a rule, can record most any scene that occurs in public view. In fact, so can anyone with a simple cell phone camera or camcorder. This doesn't mean you can't keep reporters from getting in the way of an operational scene, either for their safety or the safety of the rescuers.

3) For extended scenes, tarps and other obstructions can afford privacy to the victims as well as the rescuers. Even having responders who are not directly involved with patient care can form a "shield" to obstruct the view of the camera.

4) Finally, avoid physical contact. If the reporter is becoming a hazard, state that so it is recorded. Firmly, and politely ask the reporter (or any bystander) to step back to a safe viewing point. If the person becomes uncooperative, withdraw and call for assistance.

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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