Most people never really associated social media with emergency services until recently. Over the past few years, fire departments, police departments and EMS agencies have taken to social media to humanize the badge, show daily operations and recruit new candidates. Due to the relative low cost and effective outreach of social media, thousands of emergency services have successfully connected with the community in a positive manner using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Most notably, you have the NYPD's Instagram page as a staple of mass social media efforts, however smaller departments like Hingham (MA) Police and even specialty divisions like Wilton (CT) Police K-9 have found success in their efforts. Through the use of Instagram and Facebook, relatively small departments have been able to reach far ends of the country and beyond to help send a positive message to their viewers. Rather than just seeing a badge, followers now get an inside look at day-to-day operations. This further improves a healthy relationship between the community and the men and women sworn to protect it. The addition of light-hearted posts further humanizes the badge and reminds followers that the officers that make up a department are no different than you and I.
Diverting our attention to fire departments, social media has proven to be a fantastic recruiting tool as well as a means to show citizens what it takes to be in the fire services. Whether followers get to see training evolutions or live responses, fire department social media pages, Instagram especially, have really taken a department's presence to the next level. Just taking a quick glance at Kentland (33) Fire Department's Instagram page and you can see how successful certain accounts have become. Kentland is a volunteer fire department in Maryland that has always held popularity in the volunteer fire community, but the introduction of Instagram has taken their notoriety to the next level and subsequently recruiting.
Instagram has also proven to be successful for paid fire departments as well, including the obvious of FDNY. Taking a look at one of New York's smaller fire departments, the Village of Pelham Fire Department, we see how a little production value and careful curation yields to a quickly growing account. This particular department utilizes social media to educate the public on the tools the department uses, PSAs and even a little humor.
Although constricted to HIPAA laws, EMS and Rescue agencies have found ways to immerse themselves into social media as well. Many people view the emergency medical services as just a means to get to the hospital, but EMS agencies throughout the country have taken to social media to prove they do so much more. Over the years, EMS has made great advancements in emergency medicine and the careful curation of images and videos have proven such. Eastchester EMS has taken advantage of Instagram as a way to recruit volunteers and inform the public of what they do on a daily basis. Without violating patient rights, the agency has allowed its large compilation of viewers/followers to see inside daily operations and to get a feel for the job before applying. In addition, many departments turn to social media to highlight the accomplishments of its members.
Still, it is extremely important that all members of a department are well versed in the department's social media policies and do not let the use of social media get in the way of operations. Social media has been a huge asset to many, but it has also resulted in large legal issues when not done correctly. The best course of action is to have designated social media personnel or divert all social media posting to a department's Public Information Officer if there is one.
If you have found success with social media in your department, leave a comment below with a link to your account.