The Greensboro Fire Department recognizes the need for open, direct communications between the department and the public. A more affirmative relationship between the department and the news media allows dissemination of objective information without infringing upon the guaranteed rights and privileges of individuals. Good relations with the media should be fostered by all members of this department. This is best accomplished by creating an atmosphere of cooperation and professionalism.
It shall be the policy of the Greensboro Fire Department to cooperate with representatives of the news media in a professional manner. All employees shall make a reasonable effort to avoid delaying, hampering, or interfering with any member of the news media lawfully gathering information or reporting an event, subject to the conditions of this directive.
Authority to Release Information
- Only those members of the department identified by this directive may release information to the media. These individuals are responsible for complying with the guidelines and procedures established by this directive.
- When those individuals identified by this directive are asked for information beyond their range of knowledge, they should apprise media representative of this fact and refer to the correct source for an answer before responding to such inquiries.
The media may have access to the following information:
- At a major incident, upon request, or as soon as practical, the Public Information Officer (PIO)or Incident commander will provide news media representatives with information using the media worksheet as a guide. Information provided to the media should relate only to facts of the incident.
- The identity of victims will be released only after the family has been notified and after the name(s) have been verified by the Incident Commander.
- All media requests regarding sensitive matters, such as pending legal proceedings, internal investigations, grievance hearings or other personnel matters will be addressed by the Fire Chief or his/her designee.
The media shall not have access to the following information:
- Information that may affect the process or result of any investigation or legal proceeding.
- Personal opinions about victims or injured persons.
- Names of juveniles involved in crimes such as arson.
- A detailed description of suspects or evidence which could hinder or prejudice the investigation.
- Specific cause of death until announced by the State Medical Examiner or his/her designee.
- Home address or telephone number of any Greensboro Fire Department employee.
Media Representatives at Scene
- News media representatives shall have the proper identification (credentials) before being allowed access. News persons may photograph or report anything they observe when legally present at an emergency scene. Where publication of such coverage would interfere with an official investigation or place, a victim, suspect or others in jeopardy, the withholding of publication is dependent upon a cooperative press, not upon censorship by the department. Upon such circumstances, the PIO should advise the media representative of the possible consequences of publication; however, Greensboro Fire Department personnel may not interfere with news persons’ activities as long as that performance remains within the confines of that law.
- For the purpose of this directive, media representatives shall include reporters, photographers, camera operators and other media personnel.
- When mobile television or radio transmitting units arrive at the scene, operators shall be directed to go on foot to the PIO to receive assistance in determining the most strategic location to place the vehicles.
- Situation briefings will be provided at the media command post on a timely basis. Such briefings will be conducted by the PIO or Incident Commander.
- For general Fire Department information, news media representatives should contact the on-call PIO during normal business hours at 314-0522. For detailed information on fire incidents in which the PIO was not requested or the media was unable to respond to, media representatives may call the PIO Answer Line at 373-2999. Information may be accessed by then dialing 7, and then 504.
- All requests for information from media representatives at the scene of emergencies, investigations, or other operations shall be directed to the incident commander or the designated PIO, who will provide essential and factual information within the guidelines established by this directive.
- The incident commander may delay providing information to media representatives when an emergency exists or until such time that the pertinent information is available to him. Media representatives should be advised why a delay is necessary and provided the appropriate information as soon as possible.
News media representatives shall be permitted to interview victims of crime or disasters, who have consented to such interviews providing:
- The victim is not undergoing medical attention.
- Investigative personnel have completed their interviews.
Release of Information – Adults (16 years of age or older)
The following information pertaining to adults may be released:
- Name, age, address, and similar background information of a person who has been charged, arrested, or cited for violation of any statutes or ordinances.
- The text or nature of the charge
- Factual information which will not impair an on going or impending investigation.
- Name, address, and age of a victim after positive identification and notification of next of kin.
- Additional information which may assist in an investigation, such as alerts for individuals or vehicles.
Release of Information – Juveniles (Less than 16 years old)
The name, address, or telephone number of any juvenile under 16 years of age may not be released.
News Releases Involving Multi-Agencies
In matters involving mutual efforts of the Greensboro Fire Department and other agencies, the release of information shall be coordinated through all those agencies or departments involved and released by a spokesperson designated by the department or agency in charge.
(excerpted from the Greensboro Fire Department's General Operating Guidelines)