Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Firefighters rush to social media

Fire chief Luis Santiago wants his department to be more interactive and transparent.

To do so, they’ve gone online.

On Facebook, the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department has more than 650 “likes” in the month since the page was created. Posts with photographs and videos on site are giving viewers a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse into the daily life of a Toledo firefighter, said Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld.

The lieutenant, the department’s public information officer, will be responsible for updating the Facebook site as well as the new Web site, www.toledofirerescue.com.

Both the Facebook page and Web site were created free-of-charge by Hanson, Inc., a Maumee-based digital company.

The fire department does much more work now than in the past — they respond to fires, car crashes, drownings, and medical emergencies. Ask the average person what firefighters do, Chief Santiago said, and they might say “throw water on a fire.”

“There’s so much more that’s being done for this business that costs $63 million a year to run, and that’s expensive,” the chief said. “The public deserves the knowledge and information — ‘What does that all go toward? Sixty-three-million dollars. That’s a lot of money. What do we get for that?’ ”

The department’s Facebook page posts vary — there are pictures from an East Toledo fire, a post about a woman rescued from a different house fire (that post is, by far, the most popular), and videos of firefighters at work.

As posting becomes more frequent and the department more clearly defines how it wants the page to be used — and how to use it — it could include real-time updates on fires, safety tips, or asking the public for help in identifying suspects in arson cases.

Eventually they could move to use Twitter too.

Initially, Chief Santiago and Lieutenant Hertzfeld were “resistant” to social media after seeing it abused and misused elsewhere.

But other cities have had great success with Facebook — locally, the Oregon Police Department is a prime example with more than 3,800 “likes” and posts seeking criminals that often times get feedback.

Many of the Facebook posts received positive feedback and comments recognizing the firefighters’ work.

“Firefighters have a job I could never handle,” posted Nicholas Kerschner. “Saving people is good. I just [couldn’t] deal with the ones I couldn’t save. They put a lot more on the line than their lives. Try not to take your work home with ya as a fireman. Sounds impossible. ... God bless all you firefighters out there!”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.

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