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How not to respond to the press: A Long Island fire department deals with a reporter asking questions about the Confederate flag.

This is an example of what not to do when the press comes knocking at your door with a story impacting your department’s reputation. Leaders and members of the Elmont Fire Department made it clear they do not believe they have to answer questions about the department’s logo and allegations that there is a Confederate flag on display inside the firehouse.

My guess is that’s not going to make this story go away. If you have a defensible position then come out clearly with your message defending your actions. If it is indefensible change your policy, handle the problem and move on. Ignoring, running from and hiding from reporters and cameras will fail to serve you almost every time. It makes a bad situation worse and a one day story into a multi-part series.

Here are excerpts from the story in question from WNBC-TV:

The Elmont Fire Department on Long Island is responsible for about 35,000 residents, most of whom are black. Yet if you look at the logo for Elmont Engine Company 3 you will notice a consistent symbol — a symbol that looks like the confederate flag.

On Engine Company 3’s patches and former fire truck a logo shows a firefighter wearing what looks like confederate flag shorts. On the new fire truck, a skull is wearing what looks like a confederate flag bandanna.

We contacted the Elmont Fire Department, but they declined an on camera interview. Commissioner Ralph Esposito, who is in charge of Engine Company 3, at first declined to give his last name, then said the engine company had a long tradition going back “1924.” He said the flag in the logo was an “American flag,” then threatened legal action.

A black community leader who looked into the matter said the department told her the flag was used because the company is known as the rebels.

We went to the firehouse to get some answers. When we asked if there was a Confederate flag inside of the firehouse the firefighters did not say anything and quickly shut the garage door which was open.

The Elmont Fire Department is a volunteer fire department but funded by taxpayers. Officials from the town of Hempsted, which overseas Elmont, say they have no control over the Elmont Fire Department because it is the Fire Commissioners who make all the decisions.

Several calls made to some Elmont Fire Commissioners by NBC New York were never returned.

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