How not to behave in public.

There’s a video making it’s way through Facebook and the Fire and EMS blogs. Maybe you’ve seen it. Pay attention, there will be a quiz at the end.

Yeah. That’s the video.

Now, the quiz. Don’t worry, it’s only a few questions.

You are working a code in a living room of a home. The front door is open. Your pants are ripped, you’re wearing pink undies, AND you are having a really bad hair day. A member of the press is videotaping your back end doing compressions from the sidewalk or the street without your consent. Legal or not legal?

You have just stumbled out of your own bed after the best sleep you’ve experienced in months. While rubbing your eyes, you walk to your front porch to retrieve your mail. Unfortunately you did this in your Sponge Bob Squarepants pajamas, and for some reason a member of the press is there to take pictures. Can they legally do this without your consent?

You are in the back of an ambulance with Ronald McDonald. Or Bill Clinton. Or Sponge Bob Squarepants. A member of the press is standing outside snapping away while you take a blood pressure. They don’t have your consent, and they definitely don’t have your patient’s consent. Is this legal?

You are on the scene of a house fire in Podunk, USA. A member of the press covers this, and you happen to be in the shot. You really don’t want to be on the evening news and decide that the best way to handle this is to behave like a four-year-old who doesn’t want to take a nap. You throw a tantrum… ON CAMERA. IN UNIFORM. You then possibly commit battery. Just because you can.

In all of the above scenarios, it is perfectly legal for a member of the press to capture images of you and your patient.

That’s right. It doesn’t matter if you are on the job, a patient, or just unfortunately at home in your PJ’s. If you are able to be videotaped or photographed by a member of the press who happens to be on public property, you are fair game for the front page of a newspaper or the evening news. In some cases it’s even legal if they’re catching you while they’re on private property. If that news crew has permission from the hospital to be in that ambulance bay… They’re allowed to videotape you while you bring your patient in or while you happen to be cursing at dispatch on the radio.

I don’t know who the female is in this video. I don’t know if she was on hour 68 of a 72 hour shift, or if her back was killing her, or if she was just having a really messed up kind of day. I do know what all of those situations feel like. I also know this…

We are always exposed. We are always on display for the public to see. And they’re always going to judge us. The staff at the local ER, the nurse’s aide at the home down the street, the second cousin to the guy we treated last month. The little girl down the street from the call we can’t even remember doing two months ago.

If we are going to bitch about being treated like a third-class service, perhaps some of us need to really watch how we behave in public. We need to ALWAYS be on point. Always. Even when you want to scream and stomp your feet for whatever reason.

Be safe out there.

(Also, consider my writer’s block stomped on.)


  • Andrew says:

    “You are in the back of an ambulance with Ronald McDonald. Or Bill Clinton. Or Sponge Bob Squarepants. A member of the press is standing outside snapping away while you take a blood pressure. They donít have your consent, and they definitely donít have your patientís consent. Is this legal?”

    Of course it’s legal, that’s why you keep the doors of the ambulance closed! If they are standing on the back bumper of the truck to see in thru the windows then it is no longer legal.

  • Ray says:

    Looks like she’s actualyy a firefighter or like a wannabe trainee or something because she went wandering through the shot again wearing bunker gear

  • Scott Erlandson says:

    Spot on!

  • Carol says:

    I didn’t think her actions were that inappropriate. It looked like she didn’t really intend to hit the camera but put her hand up to block the shot and he moved the camera at the same time, so she hit it. She didn’t want to be taped. It wasn’t part of his story, she was trying to do her job and he was getting in the way. Just because we are doing a job in public doesn’t mean we give up all rights. There are perhaps other, better, ways to tell him she didn’t want on camera but she didn’t really have time to think about it. She may have moved to a different part of the state so as to avoid a stalker and didn’t want to move again…may have been an abusive ex…whatever the reason it is not that big of a deal.

  • EMS4422 says:

    This person has no right to touch the press, Every EMS or firefighter knows about scene safety, but this person was not endangering the scene. It is also not her job to control the scene that’s the police job and the fire company since it a fire I believe she was just an EMS person standing by with an ambulance.

  • Renee says:

    Epi – You are so correct. We ARE out there, we ARE going to be video recorded and photographed out there, we ARE going to find ourselves on the evening news, the front page of the paper, or that video may even be used against us in court (It may also be our saving grace!).

    There is no excuse for improper behavior among EMS professionals. We MUST learn to turn the other cheek. I have a habit of just politely ignoring the press. I’ve had cameras in my face more times than I can count, including during the World Masters Athletics championships recently. I’ve had the press video me while at work at Raley Field (AAA Minor League Baseball field) when I was sloppy wet from sweating in 110 degree heat (Now THAT was a picture!), taking blood pressures on so many people I lost track (It was a “Check Up or Check Out” day, sponsored by Spike TV.

    I’m just doing my job. :-)

  • chris maloney says:

    The woman in question was (I suppose) trying to keep the camera guy from getting run over while filming. I noticed his camera never left his eye, so I suppose he wasn’t looking around very well.
    In any case, both of them acted like assholes.
    I can sympathize with the woman, I’ve seen some pretty poor judgement on the part of photographers as far as tasteless publishing of pictures. However, her technique sucked.

  • HillbillyEMT says:

    She’s wearing an EMS tee shirt so I assume she’s EMS. Why is she doing scene control?
    IF she is going to represent an EMS agency, she needs to play nice.

  • Skip Kirkwood says:

    Carol – sorry, her actions are totally inappropriate (that’s a question of law, not a matter for opinion). If something happens out in the public eye, anyone who wants to has a right to record or photograph it. She committed battery on the cameraman. And now EMS has another media enemy for life. Nice work – the rest of us really appreciate it!

  • FFMedic says:

    I think the better question is why did some dude wearing a green t-shirt and shorts climb out of the back of an engine on a fire scene. Is he planning on making entry into the house with no PPE… maybe the lack of professionalism from the lady in the first clip is really the same for the rest of the guys in the area.

    Really goes to show how one bad apple can f- things up real fast for everyone else. One bad cop= a good cop getting shot and killed cuz his buddy was a jerk. One bad firefighter= people not calling 911 and trying to put out a fire on their own…and not making it out alive. One bad medic= a girl trying to drive herself to the hospital and getting in an accident on the way because she is in labor and hits and kills an 18 passenger van full of kids.

    Anyone doing dumb stuff= putting the rest of us in danger.

  • DirtDiver says:

    I would Fire her. Ani I am so glad I don’t live in that community.

  • HB says:

    The way she handle the situation was inappropriate. However, more and more areas are passing legislate to protect public service members from just this. The legislation was to originally protect police from the average joe video taping and then putting said video on youtube, but places are expanding it to just be you need public service members consent to video tape them while they are performing their duties. Which in my area has been expanded to include press, especially ones with out proper identification, which from the clip you do not know if the press ever made and attempt to do so.

  • Legeros says:

    Great post, PWD. It’s perhaps worth removing the word “press” from your scenarios at the start of your post. Public photography by regular ol’ citizens is equally as legal.

    That’s the final frontier, I think. Responders becoming acclimated to everyone and their brother both (a.) having a device that can record video and (b.) the rampant use of same at any scene that’s publicly accessible.

    It’s already happening. The familiar person-with-a-camcorder is become the anyone-with-a-camera-phone. And if they’re in public taking pictures, they’re within their legal rights.

  • Nick says:

    Did the gentleman filming even identify himself as press? Well, whether or not he did, this young lady committed an aggregious offense. I simply agree with all the previous posts regarding her immature handling of the situation. People have a right to stand on the side of the road (where it looks like he was to me) and film or photograph events. One of my concerns would be that once that fire would be over and I canvassed the neighborhood, Mr. Cameraman would not be so kind as to assist me with my investigation by letting me view his tape and allowing me a copy.
    Let’s not get started about the guy in safety-yellow shirt who stepped off the fire rig without turnouts on… People not wearing their PPE and attacking others for filming an important, ongoing event. Don’t think I’ll actively seek a home in that community.

  • Madmeg says:

    well where I come from the Fire service have a thing called the fire service act, which means they can do anything they need to in the course of running a scene- yup that’s right ANYTHING! so they could legitimately remove that arsehole – press? from the crap quality of his filming I would seriously doubt it- from the scene if he was being a nuisance. Pushing at the camera- if that’s what she did? not good- nothing to stop her putting her hand over her face though- he has no right to make her take it away I presume? The most disgusting peice of so called news reporting I have ever seen was when in the States on holiday, there had been a fire and some lowlife peice of shit actually filmed the firefighters carrying a screaming severely burnt child out of the building, the child subsequently died. If that is legal then your laws suck big time! If it is not only legal but accepted for the “press” to get under the feet of emergency services in the name of freedom of speech then perhaps you need to have a think about where your priorities lie? Yes we’re in the public eye and need to keep control of ourselves but do we have to allow someone to poke a camera in our faces and get in our way while working- I think not, she may not have done it appropriately but good on her for registering her protest to someone who was also not acting appropriately

    • Robert Ball says:


      While one can argue the propriety of filming burned children (and showing it on the evening news), the risks involved with blocking the freedom of the press (Egypt comes to mind…the world learned of issues more from non-press venues because the press were under control of the government) outweigh one individual’s sensibility. I would also point out that your “burned child” news clip is far more often the anomaly than the norm in most markets in the US.

      There is also a difference between “getting under the feet” of public safety personnel and filming in a public place. While it is difficult to determine in this video, it would appear the photographer was on the far side of the street from the scene, on the shoulder or sidewalk. Hardly under the feet of anyone. On the other hand, the EMS worker directly approached him. Getting in the way isn’t allowed in most communities. In my area, it’s a misdemeanor. Again though, this photographer did no such thing.

  • 40lizard says:

    well, the long and the short of it is- if you are wearing anything EMS, fire PD whatever and whether or not you are on duty or not-IF you are wearing that Emblem- you should be respectful at the very least-professional at the most- I just started our agency’s training academy this last week and during orientation we had this pounded in our brains- when I stop off at the store or wherever after work while still in uniform-I do my best to behave even though there are times I’d like to tell a few people what for! but I won’t out of respect for the agency and the uniform they have given me to represent the agency!

  • Nancy says:

    wow… good work on the writer’s block though!

  • Robert Ball says:

    Gee, where to start? Epi, I’m glad the writer’s block is stomped on. Welcome back! I’ve missed reading your work!

    For the most part, I think you’re spot on. There might be some question about the propriety of photographing into the ambulance if it involves them standing on said ambulance. One might also have a case against a photographer who is on your porch photographing without permission. However, they can stand out in public and do it just fine. From a perimeter/safety standpoint, if there’s a fire/police line established to mark a perimeter, great, press can stay outside that. All that said, public is public.

    I was surprised at how many readers disagreed and were so quick to denigrate this photographer. Frankly, this is one of those things that give all of us a bad name. We actually work hard to maintain a positive interaction with the local press. Besides making everyone’s life easier it has other benefits as well. EMS week and EMS-related stories are often the first to be cut; but less likely when the reporter/photographer like the agency. Also, while I’d like to think the press is honest, they are people and people have biases. If you treat them well, they’re less likely to spin you completely negatively when something goes wrong. If they (and you) are honest, you’ll take a hit, but it will be less unpleasant than if you’ve made enemies.

    Finally, it’s not just a matter of the press. Video and audio recording is something nearly every smartphone does quite well (and even some cheaper ones). Want to look like a complete idiot? Act like the gal on this video and watch it go viral on any one (or all) of the social networking sites. The “power of the press” has truly returned to the people. Being polite and professional in public…especially when you’re on the job–or even just wearing agency-identifying clothing is more important now than ever.

    Just my humble opinion…


  • Old NFO says:

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely, petty power breeds people like this… sigh

  • Brett says:

    I like her response… “I’m on duty.”

    Well the order of the world should be put aside because SHE is ON DUTY.

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