Gain Access To Emergency Scenes

Gaining access to an emergency scene can be a hassle to the uninitiated. Fire departments and police have the right to limit scene access in order to prevent injuries to the public. They can and have arrested members of the press who act irresponsibly at their scenes. Once access is granted, it is essential to behave cautiously and appropriately. Always approach the scene cautiously. Do not put yourself or anyone else in danger.

1. Keep your vehicle well out of the way. Avoid creating a traffic hazard or blocking emergency vehicles. This is one of the quickest and most negative ways to get in trouble.

2. Be courteous to all officials. Show the police your press I.D. and ask where you are allowed to go. Don’t rush by expecting them to see your credentials on the fly.

3. Refrain from questioning the Chief in the middle of the emergency. Handling the situation comes before all else. They will provide information when time permits.

4. Stay out of the way. For example, avoid the urge to sidle up to a fully engulfed building and take pictures through the windows. Keep your distance. Fire fighting creates enough danger without outsiders interfering. No picture calls for risking your life or others. What denotes a safe distance? One good rule is to stay behind any hose line that goes into the building. Do not go closer than twice the height of the closest wall in case of collapse. Respect any string rope or tape around a scene designed to keep spectators and press at a safe distance. Utilize your zoom lens.

5. When writing a story/caption, get the information right. Take the time to gather the correct information after the crisis passes. Always respect the privacy of the persons involved.

Finally, get to know the fire departments in your area. Some departments hand out special passes. Once they know you and see you coming, they will quickly provide you with a pass.

Often photographers will provide the departments with free photos of the scene. Although this may cut into profits, it establishes a good rapport. Part of your job involves good public relations.