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San Bernardino helmet-cams: The people & the stories behind the videos.

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The City of San Bernardino Fire Department seems to have a rather progressive attitude about the idea of firefighters shooting video on the job. We first noticed it with Battalion Chief Mike Alder’s series of videos “Inside the Command Post” that we used to bring you (here & here).

More recently we have discovered helmet-cam videos from San Bernardino. One we posted a month ago, showing firefighters finding a man inside his burning home and attempting to revive him, has more than 90,000 views. The most recent video we posted shows vertical ventilation at a house fire.

KTLA-TV, intrigued by the idea of helmet-cams, talks to three San Bernardino firefighters who are wearing the camera.

What is interesting is that in the past week alone I have been may aware of three different departments that either had helmet-cam videos shot by firefighters ordered removed from YouTube, banned helmet-cams and/or are struggling to come up with procedures for firefighters using helmet-cams. Obviously San Bernardino has a different view on this.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Dan

    I applaud San Bernadino for allowing the use of cameras. I have watched Chief Alder’s videos and have used them in training. The only reason to run away from using video is to hide your short comings. San Bernadino does not seem to have any. They seem to run a great operation, are aggressive, and doing it right. Great PR tool to build an understanding of what we go through everyday. Kudos!

  • 8truck

    I don’t see a problem with them. They’re just another tool in the pouch. One of the websites that sells the helmet cam already has a set of bylaws written. I know in my department the video has to be reviewed before put on the internet. If the individual who owns the camera is educated about proper protocol or just has some common sense there should never be a problem.

  • SBFDCaptain

    The San Bernardino City Fire Department realized many years ago that video is a great training tool. Hell, most of us watch videos on this site for the sole purpose of learning something new or re-enforcing what we already know.

    Battalion Chief Mike Alder’s series of videos “Inside the Command Post” are used all over the country for training purposes. The response has been nothing but positive.

    With the newer, inexpensive helmet mounted cameras, our department has now taken the viewer/student/cadet etc. out of the ‘Command Post’ and into the fire. The training and PR opportunities for the department are endless.

    With that said, I do beleive that a ‘filter’ or approval process needs to be in place before video’s end up on the net. A good PIO program should be able to handle that.

    I personally believe that banning helmet camera video completely from the fire ground, is the wrong way to handle this new training tool. Fire departments should not hide from future technologies but rather embrace them for what they are. A training tool that could be used to save additional lives… maybe your own.

  • ukfbbuff

    Good story. My FD uses “Inside the Command Post” for Training Segments.

    It just gets down to having a Written, Realistic and Acceptable Helmet Camera Policy with Accountability.

  • Scott

    Thanks Cpt. I think your videos are spectacular & here at my station we regularly watch SBFD & anyone else to do the “if it were us” discussion over bfast.
    I am a bit biased toward fire helmet cams. Not only have I been using one for the last 8 yrs, a good friend of mine & I have recently started a helmet cam company. And one of our biggest concerns are proper use & uploading videos to youtube. So much so we have agreed not to sell to certain (young)people we know who dont have the most “responsible” track records.
    We also send out responsibility literature with each purchase reminding guys about HIPPA laws, and the importance of following SOP’s & keeping ones Dept. in a positive light.
    I personally feel there is no better training tool than being able to revisit a fire scene and retrace your steps without fog of adrenaline blinding you.
    That being said I can only hope more Depts embrace cameras in a responsible way like SBFD.
    Stay Safe out there everyone!

  • Stuart

    There is a fine line between leaving yourself exposed to litigation from videos, and leaving yourself out of sight, out of mind in the people you serve. Kudos to SBFD for working to be progressive but responsible. Fire departments across the country are fighting downsizing, layoffs, and brownouts. However, I think a lot of that discussion is in one ear and out the other when it comes to the public listening to city hall say one thing and the union say another.

    SBFD is ahead of the curve. Their media use is getting them out in front, and bringing home (literally) what they do every day. I think it is genius. I’ve seen citizen academies, media academies, and councilman/woman academies. See what we do….well, nothing shows what you do better than see it for real. There has to be some questions answered: who wears the cameras, who gets to edit them, and who gets to release them? However, I think any real department can figure that out. The benefits out weigh the risks.

  • Anonymous

    My department bans all pics videos cams etc. they do not see the tremendous value in capturing these incidents for training. All they see are law suits. It is pretty pathetic.