Lights, Camera, Action

October 31, 2018

Lights, camera, act….WAIT! Can you first take a minute to put on the proper safety equipment so I can take a picture? I know, why should I have to ask for what should be second nature in our profession. As a rookie—oops, I’m sorry, I mean probationary firefighter—we are taught over and over again, safety, safety, safety! The first line of that defense should be our provided protection equipment (PPE) issued to every firefighter in the field. Brush jackets and web gear for grass/brush fires; turn-out coats for structure fires and physical rescues; appropriate use of gloves, whether it be firefighting gloves for fire incidents or latex gloves for EMS related incidents; safety glasses for eye protection; and the list goes on and on. Not only is this equipment provided for your safety, it is there to protect the city from having to pay for unnecessary medical expenses if you do get hurt because you weren’t following Department policy and wearing the proper protective gear.

The other day I was having a conversation with one of our best contributing photographers. He was joking that he was mad that he couldn’t take a picture of a particular individual during an auto fire because the person was not in proper PPE’s. Though we make light of it, this and other issues have become a real concern for this magazine and the department. We are in the business of attempting to present the best possible stories, with accompanying photos; however, our first concern is your safety. We are also aware of the ramifications of publishing pictures that display members violating department policy, this includes publishing pictures taken by members while on duty and involved in an emergency operation. This dangerous action is against department policy and we do our best not to publish such photos when aware of such facts. Although we have not heard of anyone receiving formal disciplinary action due to a picture displayed in this magazine, I’m sure there has been one or two members who have received a verbal warning over the years. In fairness to the department, some issues need to be to addressed to reinforce the importance of safety and prevent future harm to all those involved. Personally, I would rather be made aware of an error in judgement than be seriously hurt or worse.

Beyond what the public believes, firefighters are only human. We make mistakes. As a new associate editor for this magazine, I have made mistakes. Back in the March edition, the cover depicts a lone captain, not wearing his breathing apparatus, on a roof with heavy smoke behind him. The way the picture was presented, it appeared he was right in the thick of things while not wearing proper PPE. This was not the case. The photo was cropped to fit on the cover; however, the original unedited version clearly showed the captain doing his job but on an entirely unrelated roof and not in need of his breathing apparatus. Although I am not sure if the captain was spoken to, I was, by the Fire Chief. My bad. Cap, please accept my apology for any inconvenience this unintentional mistake may have caused you.

The Grapevine is an institution. I have enjoyed many years of reading its stories and looking at the photos inside. Now that I am a part of the magazine, it is my hope that this will remain the same for generations to come.

Are we the same magazine we were 20 years ago? No! Like all media, we have had to change with the times, and I believe most of the change has been for the better. One of the areas in need of help though is Battalion News. We still have the great photographs provided by our talented team of contributing photographers; however, the staff of battalion writers has disappeared. Some have retired, while others have lost their desire to write due to the perceived repercussions of what they have to say. Even I have to admit some of the stories presented in past Battalion News articles were brutal, but the truth sometimes is. It was also filled with stories of camaraderie and just plain hilarious antics. For some of you who are not old enough to remember the old Battalion News, read L.A. County Straight Stream, and you will see what I’m talking about. We live in a generation where people are sensitive—I get it. But, maybe they are just a little too sensitive—but, who am I to say. I believe Battalion news can exist in this kinder, gentler environment that we now work in. We just need to learn to tell it in a way that pokes, not stab.

If you are interested in getting your battalion news out to the world but not sure on how to do it, contact the Grapevine staff and we can help. Remember, this is your magazine. We are here to give you the best content possible, but we can’t do it alone. We need you to do your part by taking a moment to double check that you are wearing your proper PPE’s and then, when you have a moment, write of your heroic tales or comical escapades, so that we can share your story. In this way you can stay safe, and we get the chance to read the fantastic stories written by you, alongside the great pictures taken by our contributing photographers. By doing what we are trained to do, we both win!

By John Hicks

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