Just over three years ago, I penned a post regarding how firefighters and EMS providers were landing themselves in hot water by using various social media outlets to share their antics, thoughts, or general ridiculousness (that we know is rampant in public safety, let's be honest) with countless strangers over the internet.
Every time this issue comes up, the point usually boils down to the fact that there are some less-than-intelligent, bad-decision-making individuals who have to go ahead and ruin the fun for the rest of us.
No, I have no desire to post incriminating information about my coworkers or my patients. No, I don't intend to defame, demean, or ridicule anything about my employer. And no, I certainly don't want any undue attention on myself.
However, in light of the recent "social media policy" released by the D.C Fire and EMS Department, I will be doing quite a bit of due diligence in the near future. As much fun as I have writing this blog and elucidating my various adventures within the city in which I work, the security and status of my job is (as I imagine it is for many of you, my brethren) first and foremost in my mind.
Reading over the new "social media" bulletin that was released in December, I found something rather amusing. I very much wanted to share parts of it with the world, but I realized after a thorough read-through that sharing verbatim text here on RaisingLadders.com would, it appears, be a violation of the very bulletin that I was referencing.
(Joseph Heller would be proud.)
However, suffice it to say that it would be in my best interest to say "The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the government of the District of Columbia or the D.C.Fire ([sic] no, there was no space there) and Emergency Medical Services Department."
Additionally, it appears that I should refrain from blogging/using any social media while at work or while operating Department equipment (seriously?! Who's Facebooking from the back of the tiller cage while rolling out on a box alarm? …actually, I'm sure there's someone out there.)
If I'm understanding these seven pages of paper correctly, I am not to share any pictures, descriptions, or depictions (do caricatures count? I've been hoping for a part-time job with the county fair!) of anything I do, experience, witness, or learn about while at work.
I would give you specifics, but as I said before—I don't think that's within the policy.
All these disclaimers and policies and regulations got me thinking. I remember several years ago, when I wrote the post (that I've copied below) on January 14th of 2009. I was still in the Academy, and I was terrified that somebody was going to bring the hammer down on me—this young recruit with a penchant for chronicling his adventures. Actually, the post was truly inspired by a (then) Sergeant who knew of my blog, who had one day set me up in the Academy kitchen. He was loudly explaining to the other instructors about how "they're talking at the Union meetings about this guy with a blog, writing about being the Academy. Nobody knows who this "Raising Ladders" guy is, but they're mad as shit about it!" (Meanwhile, he timed this particular tirade for when I happened to be sweeping and emptying the trash cans of the kitchen at the end of the day, and was eyeballing me to see if I'd react.)
I didn't. I quietly disappeared into a supply room, took a few panicked deep breaths, and resolved that no matter what happened, I'd still keep writing. And here I am, almost exactly five years later.
So here you go, dear readers. A rekindle of a proud fire that's been smoldering in the background of my soul for a number of years. If this is a violation, so be it. It is purely my opinion, bred from my pride, and absolutely my honor to share this with you once again. Take it for what you will, but I mean every word of it—even more so than I did five years ago.
Happy New Year! Be safe and smart out there—let's all see 2015 together.
An open letter to the members of the Washington, D.C. Fire and EMS Department, as well as all readers/fans of RaisingLadders:
Every single day, I’m damn proud to polish my boots and walk into the Academy with our patch
on my sleeve. Some don’t understand why it’s so important—all the lint-rolling,
the posture adjustments, and shoe-shining can become annoying, for sure—but
it’s necessary. It’s necessary because these actions are the outward
representations of my place within something so much larger than myself. This
fire department has garnered so much respect from those who have walked through
these halls before me, and will inevitably continue to do so for years after
I’ve been forgotten.
This is it, friends. This is the show. It’s where we all strive to be; nay, it’s the very reason
we’ve trained and waited for countless years—and I’m here now. That’s a pretty
monumental achievement, and I think it would behoove every recruit (as well as
all potential recruits) to keep that in mind.
That being said, there are a few things I’d like to state for the record regarding RaisingLadders.
Call it a disclaimer if you wish, but I feel that it’s time to clarify a few
items before they become larger issues.
RaisingLadders.com was created out of a desire to chronicle my adventures through the D.C. Fire
Department. Being accepted into the Training Academy was one of the most
pivotal moments of my life thus far, and it will forever affect me regardless
of where I end up. I had always planned to write about my time with DCFD (as I
greatly enjoy writing whether I have a readership or not), but it wasn’t until
about a month before I started that I began toying with the idea of publishing
Perhaps it was set in motion because I wanted to let my friends/family know why I was getting
up at 4 a.m. every day; perhaps I just wanted a way to write stories and not
have an editor breathing down my neck (“…besides,
who would really read it anyways?”).
I’ve received emails from people all over the country who have asked me about my experiences
as a recruit. Most are DCFD applicants themselves; others have asked if I
wanted to be featured as a guest writer in their own blogs. I’ve shared with
them as much as I know, with no opinions or negative influences. Again, I’m
extremely proud to be a part of D.C.’s bravest, and I expressed as such to
I do not write this blog with any slanderous motives; nor do I write with an intention to
“blow this whole thing wide open”—RL is by no means a journalistic expose.
I’m simply writing about some of the best years of my life, spent performing one of the
most exciting jobs in the world. I love to write, and I love my career—the two
couldn’t be paired more perfectly.
I write to share the new emotions I experience, as well as to discuss my excitement at
becoming a firefighter (something I’ve wanted to do since I was fifteen years
old). I write to share what I’ve learned each day, in the hopes that maybe
someone else will be inspired to do the same. At the very least, I hope a few
armchair adventurers out there can live vicariously through me.
If any person(s) involved with DCFD (which includes, but is not limited to: IAFF 36,
administrative members, firefighters, instructors, recruits) has any problems
or questions regarding my writings, I
invite you to contact me directly (email@example.com) and/or leave
comments on the blog. I welcome your ideas, and would love to know what you
I will continue to uphold my anonymity, despite the fact that it’s really not that hard to figure out who I am; I feel that I should
respect those around me by keeping their personal information private (I, on
the other hand, have pretty much passed the point of plausible deniability).
I will do my best to properly present the Department in an honest light; so far, it has been
an exceptional experience and I simply cannot wait to see what the next day
I thank all of you for taking the time to read RaisingLadders.com; I pen it with sheer pride,
and I can only hope you have as much fun reading it as I do writing it.
P.S. – In case anyone was wondering, the name “Raising Ladders” came to me in a bolt of
inspiration one day. Yes, I know that if I’m assigned to an engine, it won’t
make much sense (seeing as the truck companies are the ones throwing ladders);
however, it struck me as a very apropos phrase. Ostensibly, it refers to
firefighting operations; but I found it well-suited to describe the many steps
I’ll have to take in order to become a working member of the D.C. Fire
Where I am now in life is like climbing a ladder; I take it one day at a time, and I try and
learn something every step of the way.