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Published: Wednesday, 6/23/2010

Photos of tornado damage draw fans to Rossford unit's Facebook page

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

First there were accident photos and general information on Rossford Fire Department's Facebook wall, which started in late November and reached 1,000 fans by early afternoon June 5.

But after the department's Facebook wall started posting photos of devastation from the June 5 tornado that ripped through nearby Lake Township - including some aerial shots and video that Rossford Fire Chief James Verbosky took while on a Ohio Highway Patrol helicopter June 6 - its following nearly tripled.

The department's about 30 members spent 561 man hours helping out in tornado-ravaged areas after quickly answering Lake Township's June 5 request for help.

Chief Verbosky said he wanted to continue updating the Facebook wall with tornado aftermath photos to share what was happening. "Devastation was truly once in a lifetime," Chief Verbosky said. "It's just amazing."

Rossford Fire Department has had a Web site for about a decade, and Facebook is another way to help communicate, said Joshua Drouard, assistant fire chief.

"It's just a way, besides the Web site, to get information out to people," he said.

Said Chief Verbosky: "It lets our taxpayers see what we're doing."

The fire department has long taken photos of fire and accident scenes for investigative and training purposes, if manpower is available, Chief Verbosky said.

Historic photos are featured on the department's Web site, which Assistant Chief Drouard updates once or twice a month. The site also contains general information.

Besides sharing photos, the fire department has used Facebook to get information out about a smoke detector giveaway, for example, and a July 11 pancake breakfast the Rossford Firefighters Association is planning as a fund-raiser for tornado victims. It also has used Facebook for public service announcements such as reminding people to change batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Facebook also allows the department to connect with other fire departments, several of which followed Rossford's lead and established their own presence, Assistant Chief Drouard said.

"It just started out as all of our friends networking together," Chief Verbosky said.

Still, Twitter is not in the fire department's future, agreed the fire chiefs, two of three department personnel who can update the Facebook wall. And an invitation to join the International Fire Photographers Association was turned down.

"We're taking care of the current time and the current historical period of the department," Chief Verbosky said.

The department's Facebook wall can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rossford-Fire-and-Rescue-Department/182959125255. Its Web site is rossfordfire.com, which has a link to the Facebook page.



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