EMS TopicsNewsPIOSocial Media & Reputation MgmtVideos

A PIO 101 Lesson: Live coverage as firefighters watch home burn. The fire department quickly tells its story. No hydrants in a Geist, Indiana neighborhood.

The live report above from the WISH-TV chopper was pretty accurate. Firefighters with hoses in their hands just standing by watching a house in Geist, Indiana burn down. The problem is that there was no water in those hoses. It is not the image fire departments like to present to the public. But there it was on live television with TV news people on the air wondering why no one was spraying water.

When a news crew on the ground got to the scene there was confirmation of the problem that the helicopter reporter was starting to figure out.

The firefighters had already used the water they brought with them. This neighborhood is without hydrants and the firefighters had to wait to get water from a hydrant 3000 feet away (according to the fire department press release).

A house blazing away with firefighters not throwing water makes for good live television. When it's live and it's breaking the facts of a news story often take a while to catch up with the pictures. It's easy when you are a busy fire chief or just don't like the press to blow off dealing with reporters or TV news assignment desks. But if someone doesn't get on top of it quickly it makes the possibility more likely that the public will see this as a fire department problem. With that picture, no information and the possibility that social media will spread it far and wide, it's something to worry about.

In this case the local fire department apparently didn't wait. Between the live report at the top, and the taped story for a later newscast below, Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Lipps with the Fishers Fire Department did a phone interview with WISH-TV (above) explaining the dilemma. Other ways to handle this include sending out Tweets right away saying there is a fire and the challenges facing the fire department.

Don't assume that reporters or the public will understand that the fire department didn't create this problem. Be proactive and explain it even before you are asked.

Remember the lesson of Obion County, Tennessee where the fire department was standing by watching a house burn for a very different reason. Don't chase away or ignore the reporter. Tell your story and don't delay in doing so. In this case a fire department PIO had an immediate impact on how this story was received by the public it serves.

Related Articles

Back to top button