While leafing through EMS news, I came across this article about the negative effects of social media: Paramedic suspended for dancing at music festival on break.

As you can see in the Instagram video clip preserved here, on-duty first responders were filmed while on a break with no patients during that time.

He realized his error and asked the person who posted it to remove the clip. But, his supervisors had already seen it and suspended him.

The reason? He should have removed his uniform prior to dancing.

“He made a simple mistake by not removing his uniform before taking his break in a public area,” said director Mike Hammond in an EMS 1 article.

I viewed the video, and while it’s not my type of dancing, it’s in no way rude or obscene. If anything, it looks like a joke for his colleagues, who can be seen in the back of the shot.

Some will argue the punishment fits the transgression, and some will not. I’ve written articles about the negative effects of social media in the past, and see both sides of this story. I especially understand if there is a company policy on representing the first responders service in public places.

For example, consider this report on three public employees recently terminated in South Carolina over threatening statements made on social media. While they felt free to express their opinions on a current news topic, county leaders disagreed.

How first responders can avoid the negative effects of social media

Do services have the right to terminate your relationship with them if they feel you — as the face of the company — have painted them or their services in a negative light?

“Many people are surprised to learn, whether from an employment contract or employee handbook, that they are an ‘at-will employee,’ ” according to an article on FindLaw.com. “This means that your employer can terminate you at any time, for any cause — with or without notice. An employer has every right to walk up to an at-will employee and say, ‘I don’t like that your favorite color is purple. You’re fired.’ There are very few, if any, remedies for you, unless your employer did something to violate your employee rights or broke labor laws.”

So, what does all of this mean to the employee and the employer? First, as an employee, know your company’s policies regarding social media and disbursement of company information. This is the best way to protect yourself against the negative effects of social media.

One example is a local fire department’s policy that employees cannot say they work for the department on social media. No pictures of patients or accidents are allowed.

This may seem like general knowledge, but it bears repeating. Avoid anything that can show what service you work for. Unless you have permission to post pictures or company documents, you might experience the negative effects of social media.

As an employer of first responders, it makes sense to have a thorough and robust social media policy. But  make sure to include frequent training on the policy for your staff. Be sure the policy differentiates between on-company time and off, and personal vs. company social accounts.

The more your employees know how you want the company represented by your staff, the better your reputation will be.

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