4 Primary Benefits of Helmet Cams for Your Fire Department

Will watching these videos make you a better firefighter?  Absolutely.

A view from the front lines.

THE FIRE SERVICE HAS BEEN QUIETLY DEBATING THE USE OF HELMET CAMS FOR YEARS. But this year, a single incident (the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Fransisco) moved the issue onto the radar of the national media.

The San Fransisco Fire Department’s ban on the use of helmet cams following the incident and somewhat fumbling attempts to defend the policy in the days after, gave the appearance that they hadn’t really thought this through very well.  And to be fair, neither have most other departments; however, maybe this should serve as notice that an informed conversation about helmet cams is overdue.

But in order to do that, we need to first identify exactly what their value is to our profession. Having had a cam on my helmet since 2008, I’m definitely sold on the utility of the technology.   For this article, I’ve organized the fire helmet cam’s most valuable uses into 4 major categories:

  1. Training
  2. Investigations
  3. Public Education
  4. Public Relations

Continue reading

Helmet Cams on the Fireground: Part 1


Flight 214 burning as firefighters scramble to control the fire in the cabin.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from the Battalion Chief’s helmet cam.

Recently, there’s been a lot of media attention on the role of helmet cams in the fire service.   The ban on helmet cams by the San Francisco Fire Department following an incident that occurred during the response to the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 has garnered national attention:  Helmet cams: Should they be banned? – CBS News Video.

After being interviewed by a couple different news agencies about the usefulness and prevalence of firefighter helmet cams, it became clear that for such a hot topic, there is very little useful information on the subject.  Most of us know they’re being used, but for what purposes, exactly?  What are the risks?  Are they worth it?  What are the best practices for their use?

With all this attention, now seems like a good time to have a much needed discussion on these cameras.  Over the next few months, helmetcamfirefighter.com will be posting a series of articles that explore the pros and cons of fireground video, along with some best practices for helmet cam use.  We’ll also take a look at how and when not to use your camera, and how to avoid getting yourself or your department into trouble.  We’ll finish off the series in December, with a review of some existing SOPs and a sample SOP for you or your department to consider.


I think when most firefighters think about helmet cams, Continue reading

Attic Fires: A tale of two tactics

First off let me acknowledge a few things. Every fire is different. Every department is different. I know staffing, manpower, rural, metro, training, experience, all of these factors play into how fire tactics are put in place. I also will admit, what works for one will not work for the other in the fire service. It’s like Forrest’s big box of chocolate out there. So let me tell you guys how I began to venture down this road…

I was at the station a few weekends ago and like many of you fire buffs I wanted to see if I could find any new fires videos. I quickly discovered a few things 1) I spend waaay too much time on YouTube because I recognized most of the fires I watched and 2) There are some poor tactics out there. I’ve said it before but if you’re gonna live in the YouTube world or at least post your latest “worker” you’d better be ready for some criticism. (and Yes, I practice what I preach & invite any criticism from all the fires we post) As I watched a few vids new & old I began to notice a few trends, especially when it came to fires that either originated or became heavily involved in the attic. These fires were handled either one of two ways and the outcomes were always stark. Go in & get it…Fire goes out. Go up, spray water from on top and/or around the roof area…Fire gets bigger/out of control. I’m sure many of you guys have been in my seat, sitting in from of your computer thinking “Dont spray through there…or…Why don’t you just…” You know, do the same things I hate that guys do to my videos…Monday Morning Quarterback it! Hey, I’m not perfect and dont claim to be. But during all of this I had this “lightbulb” moment…Someone should make a good attic fire training video! Then I thought to myself “Hey, ding-dong, you own and operate a fire helmet camera company…Why dont you do it!” Boom…The video above appeared.

Now let me say, I am not picking on the department shown in the video. There are plenty of forums to bash tactics I didn’t intend for this to be another and conversely I’m not trying to pump up my department (the second video). We arent exempt from error or criticism, but as I said earlier if you’re gonna make a video, the best place to look for content is in your own archives.

So let’s get the rubber on the road. And exhale some of that frustration in front of our computer. We’ve all been to them, you pull up and you’ve got smoke pushing from the eves and/or fire blowing through the roof. Your first line through the door and you are not met with much interior smoke and very little if any heat. As you start to explore the interior of the home you find nothing new. Youve got an attic fire. Heres where the paths start to diverge. And those factors come into play…you remember those right? (staffing, manpower, rural, metro, training, experience) I think in the end no matter what you or your department has to overcome by way of those departmental factors, the majority of attic fires can be extinguished with a minimally staffed engine company with basic engine company equipment. A hose line, an attic ladder, a pike pole or EK hook and a firefighter with some initiative. Now if a picture is worth a thousand words, we at FDCam believe video makes you the Shakespeare of the fire ground. So after watching the video we know you guys are more than capable of using those three basic tools BUT I’ve been to a textbook attic fire with all three tools perfectly in place and our rookie fail to execute. How can this be you ask? Well it came down to initiative and experience. As our Rook climbed the attic ladder he quickly found rafters here are spaced 24″ and don’t leave much room for a helmet and SCBA. Also, a charged hose line more difficult to operate in the cramped space while standing on such a narrow ladder (you may find you need to get waist-high in the hole OR even sit on a rafter). And finally when you do open up the nozzle in an attic it gets hot & steamy…FAST. If you get your technique down you may find you can cock the hose line next to a rafter to support the nozzle reaction and you can get down to what will be ceiling/floor level and let that steam roll over you best as possible. But, for the most part, you gonna have to eat some. Hey, you wanted to be the nozzle man right?

Thats the good and bad. Now for the ugly. From the first part of the video I think we showed an ineffective tactic or placing the nozzle into the vent hole or even worse standing in the front yard shooting water onto the roof. In both cases water is not getting to the seat of the fire. Depending on where you place the nozzle, you could be drawing the fire from the seat to an uninvolved area of the house, actually causing fire spread.

Overall with a little training and common sense application attic fires don’t have to turn into multi alarm PR nightmares. Many homeowners will be satisfied by getting their family members out alive, but you should see the look of joy when they are able to salvage most of their belongings because of a properly place hose line and a firefighter with some initiative. And after all isn’t that the oath we all took? Life. Property.

Stay safe out there & Keep filming!



Are you a yard breather? You may be & not even know it…

Whats a good firefighter to do? Broad brush right? Heres some indications of good firefighter behavior I’ve read while reading comments on our YouTube page. “With that much fire I would have pulled a 2 1/2 after the first 1 3/4 was put in to stop…”, “must have been a new guy. shoulda just dealt with the heat…”, “I wouldn’t feel safe running with this small crew to a fire. I’m glad we have a minimum staffing of 5 on all full-time squads and a minimum staffing of 6 on the volunteer engines, this way there is always someone there to safe you ass!”

All honest opinions from various parts of the country. And hey, if you’re gonna play in the public arena that is YouTube, you’re probably gonna get some negative feedback. But here’s my favorite variety… “save your air boys…” & “Take the mask off. There’s no reason to waste air in the yard. Force the door-control the door- go on air.” Now these two comments on two separate fires made me go back & check out the videos again. One of them I was the nozzle man so it was a personal mission as well to answer my question…I’m not a yard breather…Am I?

Flashback rookie year: Here in my department when you got hired, you went to the training academy four days a week for eight hours & spent one day of your weekend doing a twenty-four hour ride. I went to a very fire busy engine company on one of my very first weekends & picked up a small car fire. Fully dressed out in my shiny new gear I stepped off the engine masked up & plugged in before I hopped up on the step to pull the pre-connect. As I waited next to the burning engine compartment for water I felt the small, but loud “pop” of a radio antenna hit me across my helmet. My crusty ole’ Lieutenant was standing next to me in his bunker pant and helmet and yelled “take that shit off!” Ok. As I began to dress down, the same loud “pop” occurred…WTF??? “Not everything…just unplug & put it out! Save your air!”

And so it begins. When’s a good time to plug-in? now, I’m not here to debate safety. At FDCam when we work with our cameras above all else, go home tomorrow after your shift! IDLH, dangerous atmosphere, possible dangerous conditions, doesn’t matter…Go on air. But I also know whats in those bottles are precious commodities. Its time, its life and sometimes its bragging rights. No matter what your argument or reason for, firefighters always have a strong opinion on what constitutes “yard breathing”. So I ask you guys…When is a good time to clip in? I’ve only been doing this gig for thirteen years and what’s been working for me pretty well; Before I walk in the smoke or chemicals, I clip in. BUT…after living on the internet for a few years, it occurs to me that is not the philosophy that satisfies everyone. And not just my videos, but the numerous ones where guys are squirting through windows (on air) or sitting on a Keeley coil (on air) or working the deck gun (on air), those have drawn the same ire as the guys forcing a door, walking toward a burning front door, all these have drawn the same negative feedback which labels one as a “yardbreather”. So, what should dictate your actions. Your officer? Your SOP? Your experience? Your gut? I tossed out all of those because I believe they are all parts of a complete answer that drives my number one motto i stated above..”Go home”.

 Why should it matter if you plug-in the truck, the yard or the doorway? Really it doesnt…what matters is you, me, people who give a crap care about this job, about getting better, doing it safer, more efficient …We care about being the best at what we do AND the best sweat the little things. Like yard breathing.

Check out those links to our fires & see if you agree or disagree..join the conversation here or anywhere else you see fit. I’m a firm believer FDCams and fire films will revolutionize how we do work on the fire ground. But we’ll never have a starting point unless we get feed back…And thats where you come in.

Thanks for playing,



Wrapping it up! Are you still playing with it?

Hello dear firebuffs!

So we just wrapped up Fire Rescue East 2013 just down the street from us in Daytona Beach, Florida! Thank you to all the good folks who came out to say hello, tell us their stories and picked up a new FDCam to work with. Without you guys we couldn’t nor would we want to exist. Personally my favorite little moment was when I got a chance to meet Cpt. Willie Wines of IronFiremen.com . It was good to meet someone that Ive been following online, to get some tips from someone who is already entrenched into the Fire Service Industry and simply just to shake hands with the real person and see that famous stache!

All of this of course wraps up the last part of the series “Are you Playing or Working with it?” Like Cpt. Wines I met a lot of fire service Officers, Lieutenants through District Chiefs. And to be honest I was greeted and spoken to with mixed reviews. Now, Ive been told my last post was a bit “grouchy” (if you thought so too I beg your forgiveness. It was not my intention.) It’s just tough to talk about lawyers without digging in your heels & preparing to fight, I think that set the tone to the post. So, as you could imagine the rank structure was split in two, Backstep Firefighters through right seat Lieutenants and Captains greeted me & the FDCam staff with toothy grins that shortly followed with their latest working fire and how their friends either got great video OR how they wished they had a camera on board so they themselves could have “gotten the shot”. AND as the pendulum swings the other way administrative Captains through (and especially) Chiefs picked up our FDCams looked over our shoulders & told us how in some form or fashion they would not be purchasing or allowing their members to use FDCams. Now I have to admit, I expected this response, but every time I felt my shoulders drop in disappointment. I had prepared some statistics, stories and field reviews for these Chiefs. And only once was I able to engage in discussion…

So I see these two big burly men strolling down the isle heading toward the booth, they stop & check out the video we had playing on the TV. The larger of the two, with the salt & pepper handle bar moustache picked up our little camera and then said “…looks like a good way to get in trouble…”, he then looked at me and waited for my response. Which in short was both a personal outlook on my tool that I have mounted on my lid, the useful feedback we have received from other departments that have bought bulk orders AND how an FDCam when used responsibly can ward off the lawyers as well as protect administrators & supervisors. I hadnt even got to the part where I mentions roudtable discussions to fine tune efficient companies tactics or to use as setting a realistic foundation to rookie firefighters, when the big man stopped me short but quickly putting the FDCam on the table and offering his final judgement “…Well, my guys wont be wearing these any time soon…” Not, particualarly rude but you could tell the big man was use to having the final say.

It was the only time during the weekend when I didnt feel upbeat. And it wasnt by his demenor or sharp tone, (I have small kids…Im tougher than that) it was because I felt bad for the past generation of established fire officers and the near future of the fire service. Walking away from me wasnt a crusty ol’ fireman who didnt want to play with the new toy. What was leaving was an entire department that was missing out on an enhanced training tool, a positive PR campaign in a poor and sluggish economy where firefighter salaries & benefits have huge targets on them, and lastly a chance for another department to understand & embrace the fact that social media (Facebook, YouTube & Twitter) is here to stay! You can create a departmental evironment where firefighters say “hey, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” or you can make a plan, define guidelines and have reasonable SOP’s that allow administrative control without infringing on personal rights. A happy department with good morale is one less likely to cause trouble for its administration, out of respect for it, NOT because of fear of being punishment. (but thats for another post…maybe my next one!).

So where does that leave us? Well, obviously with more work to do, more hands to shake & more conversations to start. The best ones will be more like the training Chief we met who coordinated tri-county training burns. He told me about how just one controlled burn lasts for months now that he can re-visit it with all the guys who couldnt or didnt make burn day. Also the PIO who told us about how his department is using the “chain of command” structure to filter all pictures and video to him for review and media release. These are cutting edge ideas being put into action. This is the direction we here at FDCam want to help departments move. Social media is like that big boulder in the Indiana Jones movie, we are going to have to manage it or get rolled over by it!

Oh and speaking of rollover, FDCams founder & my partner Lt. Pace made a real good worker yesterday and had a few cams rolling to stay tuned for that and the next installment of the HelmetCamFirefighter blog! Heres a teaser photo:Image

Thanks for tuning in and if you guys want to keep the discussion going or talk about how you can implement a social media SOP, feel free to reach out to us here or email us at support@FDCam.com




Stop playing with it!..sorta

Ferris Bueller said it best, but if you’re like me you take life waaay less serious than you should and as a backstep firefighter I truly only stop making dick jokes when the bell rings (and even then I’ve been known to throw one in while pulling slack). But I digress…The theme that A LOT of company officers, Chiefs and administrators take is, take this amazingly fun job and make it miserable. Why? I don’t know, i honestly think I’ll be riding backwards for the rest of my career (think Tommy Gavin without schizo groupies throwing panties at me) But it seems to me that those “big wigs” are always thinking inside the box. And I don’t have to tell you like most administrators, CEOs, whatever the fire department is guided (if not directed) by is litigation. SOP’s, driver training, report writing, not parking in the fire lane at the grocery store…all directed to keep the lawyers from chipping away at the fire budget. So as you guys can imagine when I stopped playing with the FDCams and started a legitimate business one of the first things “big wigs” said to me was something to the effect of “…Dont you go putting anything stupid on YouTube now” or “…You’d better not let Chief So & So see that thing” OK.

So here we are on the cusp of our very first tradeshow and…well to be honest with you we’ve got all kinds of issues, but that’s not why I’m here now..What Im dealing with is “what questions or comments do I expect from this guy, that guy OR this Chief and that administrator”?. To let you in on the business, we have sold cameras to individuals and administrators alike. And the feedback has been awesome from everyone except those cameras that were bought for HazMat teams and entire companies. I have yet to hear how it has affected the company or station or team! But what I do know is for me and my company, my station, my district and my Battallion Chief, we love our videos. We like to rib each other for cussing and yelling, for showing the engineer where we lost pressure, to the Chief where we finally thought we got the knock but it was still rolling out of the attic. The over all theme is, as we play with our FDCams our wheels are turning…Always. And so here comes Pandora’s box…What “if” FDCams were on every engine and every truck in the city? On every run? On every extrication? On every alarm? (NO medical please…think HIPPA)

You can almost hear the lawyers banging down the door huh? Well as my partner says “look on the bright side”, so lets do it.

How much more efficient would you be as an officer, driver/operator, pack mule firefighter if you could watch every run you went on? Do you think that would make you any better? And if you did it better, safer more efficiently, does that open you up to litigation and shield your every decision? Well doesnt that depend on how good you are? How good is your training then? Well…what if when you first got hired you reported to the local training academy and sat down in your brand new uniform to listen to the old crusty, handle bar moustache, carbolic captain (think Cpt. Willie Wines) tell you all about being part of a family, working in the trenches with your new brothers, scrubbing toilet bowls and learning how to cook…something edible. Then the lights dim, the DVD click on & you watch a ladder guy step off the truck, grab a hook & walk into pitch blackness, there’s a confirmed victim in there…its YOUR job to go get him. Did you see what I wrote? You Watch. You didn’t have to just listen to this old crusty bastards big fish story right? Youre young and full of ambition, this old man probably just likes having someone to talk to…No, you watched that guy who made the grab with your own eyes & he looks an awful lot like a younger version of the senior citizen now standing in front of you. The job, just got real. YOU have to go into THAT? That’s not how it looked in Ladder 49! So from day one, your mindset was changed. Do you think that training mindset would change the way you approach each shift throughout your career and your outlook on training?

So where do we go from here? Well, you can go back to sleep if you want…WE are going to Fire Rescue East 2013 and I really hope to hear from some of you Chiefs and Administrations when we get there. I hope to get to show some our favorite FDCam videos and talk about the benefits of not just playing with these things anymore!

So stay tuned folks, we’ll be sure to send you pictures and updates from FREast so continue to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the ventures ahead…

Stay Safe,



Are you Playing or Working with it???

Ok…Let me let you off the hook right away. I’m talking about Helmet Cams. Well, we own and operate a fire helmet camera company, what’d you expect? But my question still stands.

The wheels started turning the other day when I got a Tweet from our friend PJ Kellam from Facing Backwards blog. He shared some of his favorite helmet cam videos & stated the usefulness in them. All of this along with the recent semi-down time since the Christmas rush and I began to wonder about you guys. So far our customers stand on one of two sides of the fire department spectrum. You are an administrator or Chief and purchase cams to enhance training and accountability OR you ride in the seat and like to add kick ass music to some really good working fires so the world doesn’t have some distorted Hollywood image of what real firefighting is. (I apologize if I didn’t peg you in one of those round holes). If you are wondering we started out as the latter, I began taking notice to fire helmet footage close to 6 years ago now. For those of you who I havent told already, we went to a 2-story set job that they didn’t quite get going the night before. Luckily (for me) when shift change rolled around they set it again & it was cooking. While we were picking up I saw one of the truckies helmet cam…Needless to say, after watching the video I was hooked. YouTube watch out!

Ok, fast forward a few years & now I’m an experienced YouTube Firefighter AND Fire Helmet Camera Co. Owner…So I’ll let you all in on a secret. Marketing fire porn guys is easy! Get some awesome fire footage, keep your head still & pick your favorite NickleBack song (sorry, couldn’t help it…we all know you can only use AC/DC or Metallica). BUT looking a Dept. Chief or Administrator in the face and actually “selling” them 20+ cameras and not having a sticking point of “…Plus you can add your favorite  songs!”, well, to be honest it kinda makes me sweat under the collar a little bit. So I turn to my favorite resource…You. The guy riding backwards, the right seat officer AND the training coordinators. What do you with your helmet camera? Are you waiting to pick out your next song? Or are you charging you cam for the training burn next week? And no matter what, are you guys watching your next movie at the breakfast table? Does each guy (Officer, Driver, Firefighter) give his/her perspective as you pause the tape?

I ask all of these rhetorically. Because for me, I’m checking all the boxes. I’m still looking to make “badass fire videos” and I’m looking to get better with each and every fire. I want to hear to 25yr veteran as he critiques my work. I also want to walk in the training academy and see one of my fires playing to the latest recruit class. I’m learning  more each day as Co-Owner/Partner here at FDCam.com the skies the limit with Helmet cams…Whats my vision for helmet cam uses and training suggestions…that’ll have top wait for the next post…The bell won’t stop going off & it’s Friday night…I’d better get some sleep while I still can. Stay Tuned for more…

Stay Safe out there,



FDCam Apple Tutorials: Adjusting the Settings On Your FDCam 720

Fire helmet cam mac tutorials.

In part two of our series on using your helmet cam with a Mac, we are going to change the settings on the camera.  Your FDCam-720 has user adjustable settings for SD card file overwriting (you tell the cam wether you want it to overwrite or turn off when SD is full), date/time stamping, and resolution / frame rate.

Adjusting the settings is optional and your helmet cam will work fine if you never change any of these.  In most cases, it will work better if you never change them.   However, like me, many of you don’t prefer the Timestamp on your videos, and you’ve asked for directions on how to change them on your Mac.  So here goes.

Really the process you will use is the same as it is on a PC, it just looks a little different:

Step 1:  Connect your FDCam to your Mac via the supplied USB cable.

The removable disk will be called "No Name" unless you have changed the name.

You will see a device drive icon appear on your screen. If this is your first time connecting this helmet cam or SD card, or if you’ve never renamed your camera, the drive will be called No Name.

Step 2:   Continue reading