Hurricane's: In Case of Emergency, 'Irene' is the case


Hurricane Irene is moving her way up the east coast of the USA and will shake various communities. Being prepared is warned more today because of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina and last year RBR-TVBR did a series of being prepared. This is one part of our emergency report which is worth reading again.

Planning for any kind of crisis to understand there is a difference between managing that crisis – responding to the needs of the moment (disaster response) – and maintaining continuity of operations (business continuity, or the process of bringing your operations back roughly to where they were when the crisis hit).

NOTE: All Broadcast and Media outlets here is a three part series published by RBR-TVBR on Hurricane season: What you need to know to be prepared – The information is extensive and our recommendation is for all Radio, TV and Media outlets to Post this series on your local websites to assist in advising your local audience and your staff to be prepared:

Broadcasting cited as part of emergency preparedness plan

Hurricane season has started: What you need to know to be prepared, Part I

Hurricane season has started: The Flood of the Century, Part II

By Howard B. Price, CBCP
It’s important for anyone planning for any kind of crisis to understand there is a difference between managing that crisis – responding to the needs of the moment (disaster response) – and maintaining continuity of operations (business continuity, or the process of bringing your operations back roughly to where they were when the crisis hit).

Self-sufficiency may be vital – In an emergency assume you will get no outside help in a worst-case scenario for 72 hours. The folks in greater San Francisco know this all too well – having lived through a rush-hour earthquake in the late 80s, officials there even created a website called And we recommend you visit it for some great ideas on how to survive all kinds of disasters – alone – for 72 hours.

But how can you survive if you’re deployed in the field for some uncertain period of time? Here’s our pack list for a “go kit” that will make you the envy of your colleagues:

• Small rollaway suitcase, duffle or hanging two-suiter (if it fits inside an overhead bin of an airplane, it’s just the right size)
• Three days’ worth of clothing appropriate for the weather in which you’ll be working (you may want to keep a spring/summer pack, and a fall/winter pack)
• Comfortable, durable, waterproof shoes
• Essential cosmetics, toiletries and other personal care items
• A roll of quarters (for pay phones); a telephone calling card may also prove helpful
• At least $100 in pocket money, no bills larger than $20, with smaller bills preferred
• Essential first-aid kit (including antiseptic, pain relievers, decongestant, sunscreen, cough suppressant and throat lozenges)
• Prescription meds, eyeglasses, spare set of contact lenses. Make sure the prescription drugs are labeled as to contents and dosage and are listed in your name
• Digital voice recorder, spare batteries and chargers. Or, consider a microphone add-on for the iPod which allows the unit to record “voice memos” that can be extracted via iTunes
• Laptop computer with your station’s preferred audio or video editing system aboard
• Solar-powered and car chargers
• Universal chargers with assorted charging tips (iGo units are one good option)
• ½ dozen reporter’s notebooks and a box of pens
• Essential legal documents (passport, drivers’ license, credit cards, working press credentials, station ID card)
• Cellphone/PDA (in areas at high risk for natural disasters or terrorism, like NY, CA and FL, a cellphone on one carrier and a PDA on another is advised)
• Compact umbrella/foldable poncho/baseball hat
• Water purification kit
• Personal hygiene items
• Crank-powered LED flashlight
• Flip or similar pocket video camera (to update website)
• Plastic trash bags

Of course, this go-kit can be tailored to your specific needs, but the list of items above is a good place to start. Keep this bag in your car or workplace for quick access when needed.

Staffers may be away from their families for some time, depending on the nature of the emergency. So help them develop their own personal emergency plans, including an emergency communications plan, to keep relatives safe and in touch while their loved ones are away.

So much for personal preparedness – now, for what you need to provide for your personnel while they’re stuck working continuous tours at the station. A few years back, I compiled a checklist of items to have on hand – the items will vary in price based on the quantities you buy (I recommend a week’s supply of consumables per person) and the vendors you choose. This list implies no particular vendor or product endorsement. But it should give you a pretty good idea of what you’ll need, where you can get it and what it will cost:






# of UNITS






+ Up

3 Meals

Per Person

Per Day

About Five Years

In Temp/Humidity
Controlled Space

Meals for
Special Diets

My Own Meals

+ Up

3 Meals
Per Person
Per Day

About Two Years

In Temp/Humidity
Controlled Space


Snack Bars




3 Bars
Per Person
Per Day

Five Years
or Less

(Depending on
Product Type)

Bottled Water
(.5 Liter Size)


As Low as

$4/Case of 35

1 Gal of Water
Per Person
Per Day

At Least
Two Years


 Some Staff May be Sensitive to These & Other Medical Items)


Any Drug Store


1 Of Each
on Hand

About One Year

LED Flashlights





6” 12-Hour Glowsticks


Case of 1000

1 Case



Coleman or

+ Up



Disposable Bedding


Case of 25

1 Case


Sterno, Racks & Teapot


Home Depot

Camping or
Military Surplus Store

$50 Complete

1 Doz
Sterno Cans

4 Racks


4 Teapots


Disposable Rain Ponchos

Coleman or




Rescue Chair for Evacuation of Mobility-Impaired Staff/Guests



AOK Global Products

+ Up







1 per

(Batteries Excluded)

GMRS Handheld Radios
(Repeater Enabled






How best to know what you really need? Perform a comprehensive risk and threat assessment, and see what impacts you can prevent or mitigate before they happen. The Quick-Prep Checklist, featured on my website,, can guide your assessment and preparation process:

o A threat is a deleterious, unexpected event that triggers a negative impact – or risk – within your organization.
o Perform new assessments each time changes in your business or its operating environment occur.

o Identify your critical operations
o Remember to consider both your on-air and support functions.

o Notification Plan
o Evacuation & relocation plans
o Alternate site operating plan
o Client care/employee welfare plans

o Auto-switchable electrical grid? Priority-listed for restoration?
o Emergency generators at studios, offices and transmitters?
o Robust, maintained fuel supplies?
o Quarterly testing
o Backup wired and wireless phones on diverse networks?
o Fiber backups to STLs?
o Amateur radio operators on staff?
o Bottled water & beverage service?
o Know how to flush the toilets if water service fails?

o Contact lists updated at least semi-annually and distributed to all employees via their mobile devices?
o Blackberry PIN codes deployed for PIN-based mobile messaging?
o Cross-referenced by job function and geographical location?
o Contact lists for key vendors, news contacts, public officials, miscellaneous experts and disaster relief organizations?
o Clients?
o Offsite notification systems & backups of critical documents?

o EAS procedures?
o Management of sensitive commercial inventory (airline spots dropped after plane crashes, etc.)?
o Emergency notification systems (SendWordNow, etc.)
o Backgrounders on key institutions and individuals for live coverage
o Guidelines for program interrupts and restorations?

o Are support personnel trained as call screeners, board ops, news field producers and reporters, in-studio producers?

o On-site petty cash?
o Payroll processing?
o Accounts receivable processing?
o Shelter-in-place/in-building relocation plans?
o Cost/sleeping bags & disposable bedding?
o Shelf-stable food and drink?
o Personal hygiene and comfort items?
o First Aid kits?
o Automated External Defibrillators?
o Personal protective equipment for hazmat exposure?
o Access to grief counseling and stress management?
o At least two people in every department and on every shift trained in First Aid/AED/CPR?

o “Hot Site” – fully-equipped and on ready standby?
o “Warm Site” – equipment stowed for activation as needed?
o “Cold” site – empty space held in reserve for you to occupy and equip?
o Can you bunk with a co-owned sister, a TV station affiliated with the same network as your station, the local newspaper, a sponsor, the local cable head-end?
o Staff transportation?
o Communications?
o Cutover/cutback procedures?
o Backup transmitter sites/”shared sticks?”
o Have you pre-arranged with vendors of key products and services for priority response? Do THEY have contingency plans?
o Can you reach them when normal communications channels are down?
o Have you supplied them with a list of your needs at both primary and backup locations to assure availability at a moment’s notice?

o Smart-card access control & visitor tracking while on site?
o Recorded surveillance at studios/offices AND transmitter sites?
o Hardened doorways and glass?
o Lobby interlocks?
o Alarms/sensors, fencing, patrols

o Station vehicles garaged on site or geographically diverse?
o Backup facilities located a distance from your main sites, and on alternate power and water services?

o Some emergencies will affect only you
o Crisis management quickly transfers to business continuity
o Think short- and long-term when planning for such events:
first six hours, first 12 hours, first day, first week, etc.
o Think “bridge” plan for short-distance, short-duration relocation that can be free-standing for “plant emergencies” or the first part of another, more extensive plan for lengthier relocation

o Ready access to the experts and relief resources your community will need to get the through your common crisis?
o What can you do to provide information and comfort in such areas as temporary shelter, food and water, medical care, pets and special populations like the elderly, the infirm, children and non-English speakers?

o Many listeners/viewers will stay with their favorite stations owing to familiarity and comfort, even in crisis
o Even music-intensive stations or TV news laggards must have plans to ramp up news and information in times of crisis
o Do you have a network affiliation, or a partnership agreement to share content with a spoken-word sister station or competitor
o Interconnect with a local TV station?
o Wire service? 
o Are your on-airs smart and agile enough – and sufficiently resourced — to stop the music, stop the laughter and gather and convey critical information?

o TV stations need key contacts for the cable MSOs in their coverage areas, and for DBS providers as well.
o Direct fiber and/or microwave paths to these providers should be established
o Radio and TV stations should continue to stream via the Internet if those facilities are intact; radio stations should seek and should cable carriage on local access channels in markets without an all-news radio station or local TV news operation
o Prepare webmasters at sister stations in other markets to support your web operations if you are unable to sustain them locally
o FCC rules allow broadcasters to operate at their maximum licensed power and signal pattern in the event of an emergency in which life and property are at risk
o Make sure your EIC has all means of reaching the FCC’s regional personnel to execute any necessary regulatory procedures to implement these special operations

o When little or no news department exists, consider reinforcements from local college journalism and communications programs
o Press interns into service
o Use social networks like Twitter and Facebook and solicit phone calls, video/audio and e-mail from listeners and viewers
o Establish a protocol for verifying the authenticity of all submitted materials, and make sure submitters understand and agree to any terms you’ve established for acquiring and broadcasting their material

o Consider sponsor-supported webpages, on-air announcements and printed collaterals that will help your community better prepare for local disasters
o High-profile, promotable, year-round marketing
o Contingency sales packages structured much like school cancellation sponsorships
o RePOs: Recovery Partnership Opportunism allow sponsors to co-stage relief activities with you

o Risk/threat analysis can guide branding and image strategies BEFORE disasters strike
o Create imagers, bumpers, graphics and other production elements in advance.
o Polish conveys a feeling of calm competence to a frightened audience

o Duplicate vital station records and programming offsite
o Make duplicate backups and keep copies in several locations to which employees will have easy access when necessary

o Require daily status checks from all employees on business travel
o Persuade vacationing staffers in critical positions to leave a way they can be reached (even if through a third party such as a relative) at the very least.

o An unrehearsed plan is almost as bad as having no plan at all
o Exercises reveal flaws you’d only see when elements of the plan are implemented
o Semi-annual drills are a bare minimum. Quarterly “functional” or “tabletop” drills of various scenarios and operations are better
o One fullscale drill annually

o Consider pooling scheduled events such as news conferences to save money and conserve operational resources.
o Encourage local disaster agencies to install fiber lines or microwave links to central “switches” so that updates can air immediately

o Always fully fueled and properly maintained
o Geographically diverse
o Emergency kit aboard (jumper cables, flat fix, air compressor, extra fluids, high-power spotlight, flares, etc.)
o Conspicuity markings recommended (reflective logos, etc.) along with front and rear strobes
o Reflective safety vests for field staff

o Proof of performance imaging
o Tell your audience what your have good to go that your competitors don’t

o The A.H. Belo model:
 AHB stations use common engineering platforms; visiting personnel know how to run any AHB live truck in any AHB market
 “Go Kits” fully provisioned and charged
 Reporters and crews are rotated on monthly “Go Team” duty
 Personnel and assets ready to go on about one hour’s notice
o Deploy workplace personal preparedness kits to all station personnel; should contain, at minimum, a packet of drinking water, a glowstick and LED flashlight, a facemask, a whistle, a first aid kit, and instructions on what to do and where to go in an evacuation or relocation

o When was the last time you had your generators overhauled, your guy wires checked; tower relamping done; inspected your fire extinguishers and any battery-operated life-safety devices; overhauled your mechanical transcription systems, programming and engineering control surfaces, etc?
o There’ll be no time and no available bodies during a crisis – so take advantage of downtime to keep your systems in peak operating condition.
o Regular maintenance also minimizes loss during disasters

o Procrastination is the enemy of business continuity and effective disaster response
o You cannot plan in the midst of a crisis
o Plan a little in advance, save a lot during implementation
o Even when a plan is triggered and then stood down, costs are usually far less than if plans were cobbled together and executed on the fly
o Remember:  Most plans created for unthinkable events are easily and quickly adapted to the more-likely routine emergencies.
o A robust, exercised business continuity and disaster response/recovery plan represents insurance that can save your business

FINAL NOTES for our series “In Case Of Emergency from Howard Price:

Price warns, if you’re a manger at the typical radio or TV station, with little or no background in these two distinct professional specialties,  covering the crisis AND keeping your station and staff intact and functioning on- air during the crisis, you already have a headache just contemplating them.

Price advises: “If you tackle the challenges systematically, and delegate specific responsibilities to others on your team whose regular job skills will prove a surprisingly good match for these new ones, you’ll achieve your goals, save your business, and win the hearts and minds of your staff, clients, listeners and/or viewers.”

Price suggests an alternative to the previously discussed and suggested Emergency Red Book – Howard suggests, instead of using a Crisis “ Red NoteBook” make laminated one sheets instead or in addition.  He says:

“In a true crisis, it’s likely people may not have time to read it. And it’s critical to devise a how-to crisis guide that the least-skilled person on your staff can implement when necessary:

o Alternative,  create a series of graphical, laminated one-sheets, each devoted to a specific theme or response protocol, than a “book.”
o Tab the sections to group related action steps together. For example, “Technical,” “Health & Welfare,” “Notifications,” “On-Air,” etc.
o Create a mobile or index-card sized version for distribution to staff

• Communications is Key
o If you can’t marshal the troops, you have no meaningful response
o The phone tree went out with the vacuum tube
o Use a high-speed, automated emergency notification system that lives offsite, and keep your enterprise contact list current with work, home and mobile #s. Deploy this list station-wide, particularly to mobile devices
o Harness the power of PDAs, some of which (Blackberrys, specifically) can use PIN-based messaging that functions independent of your corporate e-mail server
o Know that when cellular voice circuits are overloaded, text messages will usually go through because they take up less bandwidth

• Cross-training Means Survival
o You will never know who will be onsite – or even proximate to the emergency – when disaster strikes.
o So plan for your emergency response the same way you staff your station these days – with people who know how to do everything

o And we don’t just mean your DATA; we mean your SYSTEMS as well
o Assume NOTHING you use day to day will work
o Plan for and acquire the resources necessary to implement workaround for all your critical functions (on- and off-air)
o And for goodness sake, keep backups for your backups somewhere away from your station

• Exercise your plans and systems REGULARLY
o A semi-annual test will suffice; a quarterly test of different parts of your emergency plans and systems works better as it keeps everyone on their toes and accounts for changes in your daily operations and engineering
o Not every test needs to be full-scale; table tops and functional exercises are equally useful and far less disruptive

• And when, despite best efforts, tragic things happen to your staff
o Make sure you have contact information for next of kin or any other person a staffer wishes to be contacted in the event of an emergency
o Remember the mental health aspects of crises; plan for post-event counseling
o If you are fortunate to be part of a large corporation, lean on their emergency operations team to provide support assets and services to YOUR team

About Howard B. Price:
Howard B. Price is the director of business continuity and crisis management at ABC News in New York. A 34-year veteran of radio, television and newspapers, he is a two-time EMMY Award winner, and a recipient of The George Foster Peabody Award. He has worked domestically and internationally as a news producer, assignment editor, reporter and anchor, covering some of the biggest stories of our time, including the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 Northeast blackout. A certified business continuity professional (CBCP), Howard is charged with sustaining operations at ABC News platforms when disasters strike. He also serves as an in-house consultant to the ABC Owned Television Station Group. Howard holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and an MBA in management and marketing from New York University. He is a member of the Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII), the Association of Contingency Planners (ACP), the Contingency Planning Exchange (CPE), the North East Disaster Recovery Information Exchange (NEDRIX) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Howard lives in New City, NY and you can reach him at [email protected].

DISCLAIMER: All comments and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not those of his employer. No endorsements are expressed or implied.

 –Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International  is a broadcast consultant and author of “Creating Powerful Radio – Getting, Keeping & Growing Audiences for News, Talk, Information & Personality” now in a third printing.  Next year, her fourth book  “Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Handbook for the Internet Age’ is slated for a spring publication in 2011 from Focal Press. Geller’s work in 30 countries around the world for both TV and radio helps stations grow audiences through creating powerful content.  Geller is a noted speaker, workshop and seminar leader, talent coach and trainer. 

*All rights reserved.  Excerpts and portions of this series by Valerie Geller – copyright 2010 –  “In Case Of Emergency” have been excerpted with permission from the forthcoming book from Focal Press – “Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Handbook for the Internet Age”

Excerpted from Focal Press 2011 Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age” by Valerie Geller