This policy applies to the following members of staff: All staff
Responsible staff must ensure that any visitors or those with remote access to service sites (guests, contractors, temporary staff etc.) are aware that this policy also applies to them.
This policy gives guidance to all Service staff on how to use social media appropriately for work and in their personal life. It’s designed to support staff in making the most of digital platforms whilst lowering the risks of social media on the wellbeing of our staff, our communities, and the reputation of the Service.
It’s very easy for anything you post on social media to be traced back to the Service – especially if you identify yourself as a Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue employee on your accounts. Even if you don’t identify yourself as working for the Service, you need to be aware that information posted online can be shared on channels and in ways you might not have expected when you posted it. This brings a risk to your personal reputation and the reputation of the Service.
Before you post on social media, think about what you’re posting and whether it’s something you would want your colleagues, other employees, the media, or anyone outside of the Service to read.
We know that people feel pride in working for the Service and may wish to share aspects of their role on their personal social media accounts. We want to support staff to be able to do this but there are some guidelines you need to follow.
Statements of intent
This policy relates to all employees who create or contribute to blogs, wikis, social networks, apps, forums, virtual worlds, or any other kind of social media.
This includes (but is not limited to):
• online social forums such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Teams Communities (Yammer)
• blogs, video and image-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Microsoft Stream
• messaging technologies such as iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Teams and WhatsApp.
For the purposes of this policy, social media is defined as a type of interactive online media that allows people and organisations to communicate instantly with each other or to share data in a public or internal forum.
This policy applies to all types of use and all forms of social media where there is potential impact on the Service.
This includes social media use:
• for work and personal use
• both during and outside of working hours
when using Service IT facilities and equipment to access social media, or equipment which belongs to members of staff or any other third party.
Using social media in your personal life
We would expect any member of staff to be following our values with any posts on social media whether this is for work-purposes or personal.
• You are personally responsible for any content you publish including comments, photographs, videos and private messages, for example using WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
• Any content you share on social media should reflect the Service’s values and not bring the reputation of the Service into disrepute.
• Do not publish content that could be seen as bullying, harassment, intimidating, offensive or involving illegal activities.
• You should not use your employment with the Service to promote businesses or work you’re involved in for monetary gain.
• Follow the Information Security policy and the Data Protection policy.
• Check your privacy settings regularly. Make sure you know who can see the content you’re publishing and your personal information.
• Information shared on social media for work purposes or on Service devices such as via WhatsApp, Facebook or Teams can be requested as part of a Freedom of Information or Subject Access Requests.
Sharing photos and videos of Service activity on personal accounts
Photos and videos taken at incidents should follow our policy guidance for social media at incidents.
Do not post photos or videos taken at incidents on to your personal accounts unless you are sharing these from a post on an official Service account.
If you have any images or videos to share from an incident (and it follows our guidance on incident posts) – please share them with the Communications and Engagement service.
If sharing a photo or video of you at work - be mindful of the content contained within the photos and videos, this includes the background. Do not share anything which contains sensitive or confidential material, identifies anyone or could bring the reputation of the Service into disrepute.
You should not share photos featuring children, anyone under 18 or vulnerable adults.
Make sure that anyone featuring in your posts has given you explicit recorded permission to use the content on social media and understands the context you’ll be sharing it in.
Sometimes the Service will be waiting to publish information until after a certain date such as if information is embargoed or confidential. In these situations, you should check before you post with the Communications and Engagement service.
Commenting on social media
When commenting on social media, you should not make any comments that could bring the reputation of the Service, yourself or another Service employee into disrepute. This includes:
• anything offensive, inappropriate or any comments that could be seen as bullying or harassment
• revealing confidential information about the Service, our partners or members of the public.
If you’re engaging in a conversation online where the topic being discussed may be considered sensitive (such as a crisis situation, intellectual property or issues which may impact on the Service’s reputation) – please seek guidance from the Communications and Engagement service.
Using personal social media on Service premises
Access to social media is possible on the Service network. When using social media on a Service computer or on the Service network, you will need to comply with the ICT acceptable usage and ICT Security policies.
Social media can be distracting and addictive. Don’t let social media interfere with your job. Avoid using personal social media during your normal working hours. To help with this, it’s recommended that you switch off social media notifications on your phone.
Inappropriate behaviour on social media
We may take action under the staff disciplinary procedure if your use of social media is considered to be:
• creating legal liability for the Service
• bringing the Service into disrepute
• breaching any Service policy or procedure.
This may include comments, videos, or photographs, which have been posted on social media sites about the Service, the Fire Authority, colleagues or managers.
Social networking sites may be referred to when investigating possible complaints or misconduct, including gross misconduct.
Where appropriate, the Service reserves the right to monitor use of social media platforms and take appropriate action to protect against any misuse that may be harmful to the Service. This is in accordance with the ICT Computer Security regulations and where the law permits.
Using social media as part of your job
There are certain responsibilities, standards of behaviour and other organisational considerations which apply when using social media in a professional capacity, such as being an editor of a Service social media account or having a personal social media account that you post to on a professional basis.
Remember, you are representing the Service and should participate in the same way as you would with other media, public meetings or forums.
Requesting a new account
For running a Service-related social media account, such as for your station or department, you need to have the approval and support of both the communications and engagement service and your line manager.
Any requests for new accounts need to be submitted through our business case process.
We want many voices promoting what the Service does, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of performing in your role. If you are planning on using a personal social media account to talk about your work or interact with others on a professional basis, you should speak with your line manager first.
All Service related social media platforms need to be set up by Communications and Engagement to make sure the Service has administration rights and we achieve a consistent voice and message across the Service.
Managing a social media account for the Service
We want to help colleagues run social media channels as professionally as possible. Anyone running a Service social media account will need to take part in training and/or meetings as requested by the digital content manager.
Any Service social media accounts, such as a station Facebook page, are the property of the Service and must reflect the views of the Service. If you post something that is in conflict with the views of the Service then you may have your admin rights suspended and be asked to remove content from your account.
As an employee, you must take the following into consideration when using social media as part of your job.
• Be professional and do not treat a Service account as an extension of your personal account.
• Only share content which is appropriate for the Service to be sharing on a public facing account. If you are unsure, please speak with the communications and engagement service for advice.
• Do not publish content that could be seen as bullying, harassment, intimidating, offensive or involving illegal activities, nudity (even partial) or featuring dead or injured people or animals.
• Do not share information, photos or videos related to our Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) response (including our capability, capacity or location of MTA response).
• Requests for charitable donations and promotion of charities should only be shared if they are for one of our corporate charities – the Fire Fighter’s Charity or Safe South West.
• Do not provide links that offer undue endorsement or may be perceived as offering unfair commercial advantage to third parties.
• Content promoting unions such as Unison or the Fire Brigade’s Union should not be shared on Service accounts.
• Never share confidential or sensitive information.
• Ensure music, images and video are free of copyright restriction. Both you and the Service could be liable if copyright is infringed. Refer to the Service’s photography and video guidelines or speak to a member of the communications and engagement service if you are unsure.
• If a post is deemed to be inappropriate or containing copyrighted content then you may be asked to remove it or it may be removed by the Communications and Engagement Service.
• Make sure you have two factor authentication turned on for any accounts that have access to a Service social media account for example your Facebook profile. Regularly change your password and follow our ICT acceptable use guidance on password security.
• Be careful not to accidentally share any personal posts onto a Service account. Double check the account you’re sharing to before you hit ‘post’.
Managing an account during a crisis
In certain situations, for example, after a death in Service a major incident or if there is a large amount of media attention on the Service, you may be asked to postpone any social media posts planned for your account.
Any requests to postpone content must be complied with. If you are asked to comment on a confidential or crisis-situation then please refer people to the communications and engagement service.
Monitoring Service social media accounts
If you are managing a Service account, you have a responsibility to make sure that messages and comments are read and responded to within 48 hours. If comments or messages are made on our accounts that breach our social media community guidelines then you need to make the Communications and Engagement Service aware.
We support our community’s freedom to voice their thoughts and engage in ‘friendly’ debate. If the content is offensive, abusive, threatening or vulgar, we reserve the right to delete it.
We should demonstrate our values through responding to messages and any comments that may be seen as offensive or using non-inclusive language such as fireman or firemen. If you need guidance on how to approach this please speak to the Communications and Engagement Service.
If you planning to monitor anyone individually on social media on a regular basis, this is classified as surveillance and the regulation of investigatory powers act (RIPA policy must be followed.
Sharing photos and videos on Service social media accounts
Signed consent is needed from anyone featuring in a photo or video which will be used by the Service. This is to comply with GDPR. A photo or video is classed as someone’s personal data, so we need to have consent to be able to share the photo online or use it for other purposes such as safety advice.
If you have any questions about consent, please contact the Information Governance team.
Refer to the photography and video guidance for more information on photo and video consent.
We have a duty to make sure our content is accessible to everyone. You should use alternative text on all images. Where this isn’t possible, you should describe the image in your post.
Videos must be shared with subtitles and a voice over as much as possible.
Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) training and response
Do not publish any information (photos, videos or posts) which identify our MTA response capability and capacity.
Posts about MTA training, responders and vehicles should not be shared on individual station pages. Training images may be used on the Service social media channels in liaison with the Capabilities team.
Sharing photos and videos of an incident on social media
Before taking any photos or videos at the scene of an incident, you need permission from the Incident Commander and the building or property owner if the images will show anything that wouldn’t be visible from outside of the incident boundary.
If permission has not been granted by the Incident Commander or if the images show the property without the owners’ explicit consent, then you should not share images/videos about the incident on social media.
Photos and videos shouldn’t identify any member of the public connected to an incident. Examples include:
• someone whose property has been affected by fire
• anyone involved in a road traffic collision
• bystanders or members of the public observing the incident
• any personal property within a building.
Vehicle number plates and call signs
Try to avoid sharing photos or videos where the numberplate and call sign of a vehicle is easily readable. Take photos from angles where the numberplate is obscured or use a photo editing app to blur out the numberplate from a photo or video.
Photo and video consent
If you are taking a photo or video of a member of the public at an incident you should ask them to sign a photo consent form. You need signed permission from anyone featuring in a photo or video that will be used by the Service.
You should save a copy (scan, photo or the original) on the Service network and give it an appropriate file name such as date, time, description of the photo. We recommend storing photos in the same folder as the consent form to keep track of what is safe to use online.
Reporting and sharing incidents on Service social media
When dealing with incidents we must consider our responsibilities under GDPR, laws of confidentiality and sub-judice (whether something may come under judicial review).
Information that may be shared
• Time and date.
• Approximate location – area of a town, village or street name. Before sharing this information consider how easy it would be to identify someone from the information. In rural locations it may be better to use a more approximate location such as village name. Do not include house names and numbers.
• Type of property.
• Appliances and apparatus used.
• Number of crews and which stations were involved.
• Number of people rescued.
• The believed cause of the fire, for example accidental or deliberate. If a fire was accidental and you have permission from the person involved, then you may share details of the cause where it could be used to support community safety work such as leaving cooking unattended. We cannot confirm the cause as incidents may be subject to on-going investigations.
Information that must not be released (unless authorised after speaking with the Communications and Engagement service)
• Photos and videos of an incident where permission has not been approved by the Incident Commander.
• Confirmation and identity of fatalities, including cause of death. The police will confirm these details when next of kin have been notified and subject to any investigation they are carrying out. Police social media posts confirming fatalities may be shared once they have been shared on police channels.
• Incidents involving a fatality or serious injury to the people involved. If you believe an incident involving a fatality would have potential for future fire safety prevention, please speak to the Communications and Engagement team who will assess with relevant teams as to whether this is appropriate.
• Identity of people involved. This includes photos of people involved unless you have their signed consent.
• Any details of incidents which we are attending on behalf of South Western Ambulance Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, Devon and Cornwall Police or any other partner agency without permission from the Communications and Engagement Service.
• Location of sensitive premises for example women’s refuge or Ministry of Defence sites.
• Incidents involving government establishments – prisons etc.
• Information, photos or videos related to our Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA) response (including our capability, capacity or location of MTA response).
• Incidents involving our Primary Authority partners - if an incident involves one of our Primary Authority partners, please speak to the Communications and Engagement Service or the Primary Authority Partnership Manager before sharing anything on social media.
Sharing photos and videos of an incident on social media
See section above ‘sharing photos and videos from an incident’ for more guidance.
If a major incident is declared, please speak with the communications and engagement service before posting incident details on social media.
For certain incident types, such as a marauding terrorist attack, the communications team may ask stations and departments to only share content from the corporate Service channels.
Working with children, young people, and vulnerable adults
The use of social media if working with children, young people and vulnerable adults should be no different from working with them face-to-face. Anyone using social media who is representing the Service will undoubtedly encounter children and young people.
Any employee or representative interacting with the public through social media will be required to adhere to the Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults Safeguarding and Protection Policy.
Emails and messaging apps
Colleagues must ensure that any communications are made in a manner which is both legally and morally acceptable, and this applies equally to emails and platforms with a messaging function as it does for social media.
This is particularly important in relation to the disclosure of contact names, addresses or numbers relating to any individual.
You must not send or pass on:
• emails, messages, images, or videos (including Teams backgrounds) containing racial, sexual, religious or otherwise offensive or inappropriate remarks, photographs, gifs or other media
• emails or messages which contain material which is incriminating, including in relation to admissions of fault or liability, unless expressly authorised by a line manager for the purposes of formal communication to a concerned party
• any emails or messages to other employees, which contain information that is either not intended for their receipt or may feel intimidated by the contents of such communication.
The use of all staff email addresses is specifically not allowed other than via the Communications and Engagement service for consideration in line with the ICT acceptable usage guidance.
• delete any email which contains personal data which may be subject to GDPR as soon as it is no longer required for the purpose for which it was obtained
• report the receipt of emails or messages containing racial, sexual, religious or otherwise offensive remarks or media immediately to your line manager
• comply with the provisions of both the ICT acceptable usage and ICT Computer Security policies
• remember that not all messaging and email providers are considered to be secure, and therefore content may be accessible to others, and/or may leave their own devices or Service systems open to internet based hacking
be aware that messages relating to the Service sent on social media apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Microsoft Teams may be requested under Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests.
Monitoring and assurance
The Head of Communications and Engagement will:
• regularly monitor compliance based on business need
• identify areas in need of improvement
• implement necessary changes
• provide assurance to the Head of Department/stakeholders/EB.