People need to go back to the basics when reporting incidents to public safety officials. Public safety officials are finding that people, in their excitement to document a fire, traffic collision or other emergency and be the first to post the photo or video on social media are sometimes neglecting to summon help. People are very socially engaged today and want to capture those viral video clips. However we strongly urge people to call 9-1-1 any time there is a threat to public safety: a situation that could result in someone being hurt or requires immediate medical aid. If you are involved in, or a witness to a potential life-or-death situation, please turn the camera off and call for help.
Telephones came off the wall 44 years ago, and became small enough to fit in a pocket. Cameras showed up in those cellphones in 2002. Suddenly, everyone could be a citizen journalist. Then the news media, which cannot have reporters at every scene, asked witnesses to contribute their photos and videos. Whether it is a crime or tragedy, one of the first things many people do is take out their phones and not render aid. Everyone thinks they can be the next famous film director or news anchor.
Now a fact of life
Going online and communicating with others is just part of our modern society. It has worked its way into every aspect of our lives. We record any momentous moment in our life, newsworthy moments, and historical moments. It is for two reasons: One, it is just our norm; we are constantly sharing every aspect of our lives. Secondly, 9 out of 10 people have our phone within arm’s reach all day, every day. An argument can be made that there is a segment of the population that is into sharing before calling 9-1-1. There are people who go on Facebook because they want the attention, and that is misguided.
Stay out of harm’s way
The responsible thing to do is always call the public safety officials before you start recording or posting. There can be value in the videos or photographs if they provide evidence of who committed a crime or how a collision happened. But you do not want to put yourself in a position to get hurt or be the victim of retaliation.
If you see something, say something. To have video evidence is great. Obviously to say something is important. But it does not do as much as it can as if an incident is properly reported through the right channels, such as calling 9-1-1 or a non-emergency telephone number.
Public safety officials generally do not mind people shooting crime scenes, fires or traffic collisions as long as they do not get in the way of rescuers or put themselves in danger. In some situations, people are putting themselves in harm’s way and public safety officials do not want additional people becoming part of an emergency.
Do not report crimes on Facebook
A side issue to social media and emergencies is that people sometimes report crimes or other non-urgent incidents by posting to a police department’s Facebook page. Those pages usually warn visitors that police do not monitor the pages 24/7. This is happening more often, if you need to report something, call 9-1-1 or the non-emergency number. But don’t report it for the first time through Facebook or another social media outlet.
The bottom line is that no matter how tempting it is to photograph or post something before or instead of calling public safety officials, people should put public safety first. There is this entire structure where three numbers can bring help anywhere in the United States – 9-1-1 – and that is pretty effective.