Ethics in emergency management

Ethical standards are fundamental to any profession. Part of the definition of 'profession' is a group that sets and maintains ethical standards, often through self-regulation. At the forefront of any Code of Ethics is the principle that professionals work in the interests of the public, not their own self-interest. A Code of Ethics guides members of the profession about how they should act by setting out general principles that can be applied to situations as they arise. Members of a profession apply ethical standards to their work not through a fear of getting caught or disciplinary action, but because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Ethical issues have not traditionally been seen as a major concern for emergency managers. The possibilities for exploitation of individuals are not the same as may be encountered in professions such as the medical and financial sectors. That does not mean that we should not consider what the ethical issues are that may affect the practice of fire and emergency management. Key areas of importance include serving the public rather than serving our self-interest; using public money and resources conscientiously and only for the purpose we have been provided with them; treating everyone equally without discrimination or bias, and not doing or saying things that might suggest we would not do so; and using social media responsibly and having in mind the need to protect the reputation of the profession as a whole. These are all issues that are addressed in the EMPS Code of Conduct.

The importance of a professional Code of Ethics is such that breaches may be expected to be sanctioned, proportionately to their seriousness. The worst breaches may result in expulsion from the profession. A breach of the Code of Ethics reflects badly not just on the individual but on the profession as a whole, and as a result the profession will act decisively to show that it will not tolerate unethical behaviour in its ranks.