There was a really cool story that came out of the tornado outbreaks a couple of weeks ago having to do with emergency communications that I felt I had to pass along, if only to force you to update your media monitoring strategy (though I obviously hope it does more).
With the latest advancements in tornado predicting equipment and technology, it was possible for local television stations to give up-to-the-second take cover recommendations—oftentimes before the National Weather Service could make those warnings. The problem, though, is that the wind and damage caused by a tornado often precedes the tornado itself and can damage power transmission lines; and well, turning off people’s TV. The local television stations were in a bind as to how to communicate the adjusting prediction models and tell people in real danger to take cover.
So, they diversified. If they couldn’t send messages via TV, they looked to other methods of communication. Like radio:
“When the area started losing power, we were simulcasting on our radio partner WUSY-FM,” said Derrall Stalvey, news director at WRCB Chattanooga, an NBC affiliate owned by Sarkes Tarzian.
And social media:
“Even without power, people had access to Facebook and Twitter and we had two employees dedicated to nothing but updating social media in addition to the station website. That’s another way people were hearing about warnings.”
“We did several reports via Skype, several where our reporter was in the field and literally did a live report through smart phone. Does it look as good as an HD signal? Absolutely not, but it’s a lot better to have that than to have nothing.”
The best part of this multiplatform simulcasting?
“We had people tell us stories about hiding in the bathtub, the power off, watching us on their iPhones, hearing the reports and warnings,” Henderson said. “They saw it as a lifeline.”
What does this mean for you and your operation? You’ve got TVs in your EOC and JIC for media monitoring, right? Well, what if the news is counting on using social media and radio for the breaking-est news? Do you have a radio in the room? Someone monitoring it? A station to monitor the Facebook and Twitter feeds of all of the local news stations? A person (or persons) to do that monitoring?
From the public’s perspective, this is great news. You get the latest news where you are (even in a bathtub with your whole family) when you need it. But from a responders point of view, have you updated your plans to account for all new avenues of monitoring? If not, what are the consequences of that? When seconds count, are you ready to receive the message?