Safety advisory for journalists covering hurricanes and tropical storms
October 29, 2012 1 Comment
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast of the United States, threatening millions of people and leading the agenda at many of the world’s major news organisations, the International News Safety Institute is issuing the following safety advisory for journalists and news crews covering the extreme weather situation.
Here are some tips for journalists covering hurricanes and tropical storms.
• Ensure you have checked your vehicle in advance of departure, and it is fitted with a working spare tyre and the necessary tools to change it. Make sure the car is also fitted with jump leads and you know how to use them. Double check that tyres, wipers and lights are in good working order, and that the vehicle is fitted with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, cones and flares.
• Ensure that a carbon monoxide detector is available and in good working order.
• A generator is often vital in situations where there is no power or electricity. Ensure you have checked you know how to use your generator and you sufficient fuel for it stored in safe containers.
• Ensure you have a satellite phone with you and it is charged, and you carry a charger that can be used in the car. Mobile/cell phones may not work. Check in with your news desk at agreed times, advising them of your location and the current weather situation.
• Ensure you have enough food, water and warm clothes for at least 48 hours. This includes bottled water (and lots of it). Be self sufficient. Have enough to look after your crew. Do not assume you can buy food and water from shops. Even if you can, local residents probably need it more than you.
• Take additional charged batteries for your laptop.
• Take a satnav/GPS with you and ensure it has been updated with the latest maps. Where possible, also take a detailed map of the area too as it is likely that you will not know or at least not recognise the environs.
• Avoid driving through running water. Flash floods could carry your vehicle away. Do not exit vehicles in running water for the same reason.
• Take sufficient cash to be able to pay for things if cash machines (ATMs) are not working.
• Ensure you have enough petrol/gas for your vehicle. If you can fill up, do.
• Ensure you have good quality rain gear and that it fits you. Also ensure all of your team has reflective gear.
• Wear sturdy boots.
• Take a torch for every member of your team.
• Consider protective eyewear or, swimming goggles, to protect from flying debris. Also consider hard hats or bump caps for the same reason.
• Do not take risks for your or your crews. Heavy wind and torrential rain might make for a decent shot, but it can be dangerous, and flying debris is likely to hit you before you or the person behind the view finder even sees it.
• Do not set up any live shots under or near trees. This is because of the risk of being struck by lightning, but also because falling trees and falling or flying branches can be very dangerous.
• Do not use cables in or on the edge of still or running water.
• Do not approach or work in any area where cables have come down. Do not work in any area where you see power lines sparking.
• If you smell gas, natural gas or sewer odours, do not switch on engines and refrain from using mobile/cell phones. Leave the area on foot as quickly and safely as possible.
The American Red Cross has comprehensive guidelines for people in hurricane situations. It is available in several languages here