"Tune in to your local broadcaster for more information," is a common refrain when a disaster strikes. Americans turn to their local television and radio stations for critical, often lifesaving information, including the path of a storm, which way to evacuate and where to find help. This past fall, broadcasters' important role in keeping people safe was especially apparent as hurricanes devastated areas from the Gulf Coast to Florida and Puerto Rico and wildfires raged in California.
Yet the challenges that broadcasters face during disasters often fly under the radar. How do broadcasters prepare their facilities and staff for disasters, and what lessons can be learned from their performance during recent storms to improve in the future? What best practices should stations employ to ensure the continuity and resiliency of their operations? And how should news directors and managers balance their duty to inform the public versus protecting their employees? Should a reporter stand outside in a hurricane to convince viewers to stay inside, and when should a reporter put down their microphone to help a person in need?
On Thursday, January 18, industry experts discussed these questions and offered their observations on what local stations are doing well and the steps broadcasters should take to improve.