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,