07/01/11 459 W - + 4 - 1 Tone and Delicacy Therein

Vacation day today. Holiday weekend. Pontifications pending. We'll start with a discussion on tone. Have you ever heard the phrase "that was a good one" used by those in the business to describe an incident? Have you ever seen smiling faces at an incident scene? Like the seeming pleasure shown by crews having successfully extinguished a structure fire?

Speaking from long-ago (and relatively brief) experience, it was entirely exhilarating to fight fire. And afterward, you'd probably have seen me smiling on scene. Yet, at the same time, I was part of a very unpleasant experience for someone else. The proverbial worst day of their life.

How should we reconcile that disparity on this blog, in our incident photos, and through other social media channels? How should we square the interest, enthusiasm, and excitement for the actions and people of emergency services, with the pain, hardship, and tragedy that those situation also bring?

Part of the challenge is the diverse readership, both real or potential. The regular readers are probably members of the emergency services community, either current of former. Plus buffs and other citizens with interests along these lines. But it can just as easily be read by someone who, say, recently had a house fire. Heck, we've had a few homeowners find and post comments on this blog. (They've praised the work of the crews.)

Tone thus becomes crucial. The blog postings, for example, should be serious. Not self-serious, not deadly serious. But respectful of subject matter. Irreverence is included, however. Not flippancy, mind you. But a degree of levity. That reflects both the personality of the poster and the readers. (There's a whole posting there, the power and need for firehouse laughter.)

That's also the reason you don't see too many smiling faces in my scene photos. That's an intentional omission, and perhaps a too-conservative one. The fireground is more than just square-jawed, stone-faced heroes doing their work.

These are people happy because they love their work, they love their co-workers, and they've performed their work well. They display that each and every time on scene. Should that be thus shown in photos? Is it easily understood, by those looking from the outside in? Need to think on that more.1

Thus concludes these musings on the subject of tone. And trying to get our (my) writings and pictures "just right," so they're interesting and readable and reasonably accurate in their representations. But also palatable and perhaps even pleasant for those visiting from "the outside."

1 How does the lay person react to the presence and content of our incident photos, period? There's a whole 'nother post and discussion right there!

Version 1.1 - 12:08 p.m.  First footnote added.

A lot of times folks on here respond to a picture (or a couple of pictures) and provide all sorts on ‘insight’ into how they would have handled it. Those are the anonymous posters, usually. Others do try to provide some thoughtful comments (Silver comes to mind) based upon what is shown in the snapshot in time on an emergency scene.

What the lay public sees, in that snapshot in time, totally ignores anything that went on before or after that snapshot was taken. Unfortunate but true. A crew can pull up an a room and contents fire, flames through the windows, make a good attack, get all of the necessary tasks done, and then that one picture taken after a superb suppression operation, showing a couple of firefighters smiling, maybe smoking, and many in the public arena see so-called professionals smiling and laughing and carrying on at someone else’s misery. Sad but true. I am kind of glad Mike leaves those shots out.
DJ - 07/01/11 - 22:59

The “moment in time” effect also affects the quarterbacker factor, of course. I poked a bit of fun at that in this posting about a fire in Forest City the other day, http://www.legeros.com/ralwake/photos/we... Just two people on a roof with a fire. Minimal context, yet perhaps plenty to infer about, form opinions, or ask questions of.
Legeros - 07/02/11 - 07:14

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