If you know you will be reporting from a disaster zone, do your homework, research the potential risks, and have a plan.
Consider the environment in which you will be working. Are you going to cover a hurricane or a tornado? A riot? The most recent lava eruptions in Hawaii? Consider potential threats in that particular environment and try to protect yourself and your gear as much as possible. “Think about having appropriate clothing, footwear,” Shorey offers, “what we call PPE or Personal Protective Equipment.”
“The idea is to get ahead of the curve,” Shorey says. Think things through ahead of time. By asking yourself “What if?” you can move from one preparation step to another and consider various possible scenarios for which to get ready. For example, independent reporters go into an area where there was a hurricane. What if? They might have to go through flooded streets. What if? They need to watch out for power cables that might be in that water. And so on….
“A simple phrase, ‘what if?’ can make you think things through,” Shorey emphasizes.
His other favorite phrase is “Proper Prior Planning and Preparation Prevent Poor Performance.” (that’s a tongue twister!) What it means is that you have to make sure that you’re prepared and plan ahead, and ideally have a plan in mind for almost every possible scenario that could happen.
If you find yourself in a disaster zone, do not become part of the problem.
When on location, on assignment, maintaining situation awareness is vital. That means, “Do not have tunnel vision!” Shorey explains. Either you maintain situation awareness or have someone in your team, if you have a team, do that for you and for the team. In other words, be aware of what’s going on around you, and don’t only concentrate on the reporting. This is important to keep in mind not only when reporting from, say, a hurricane-devastated zone, but also on a daily basis, such as covering a street festival or public event of any kind. Because (bad) things can happen and do happen. For instance, a few years ago a news anchor and her cameraman were shot while reporting, in broad daylight. Nobody seemed to have noticed the shooter.
Another aspect to be aware of: especially when reporting from unfamiliar places, listen to authorities. “You are there to report on the problem not to become (part of) the problem,” Shorey comments. Don’t endanger the lives of those who’re trying to save you.
Disaster or not, don’t place yourself in harm’s way. No matter where you’re reporting from situation awareness is key. “Think about where you are all the time,” Shorey emphasizes. “And even if you don’t think of yourself as particularly wealthy,” he adds, “in most parts of the world you’re considered phenomenally wealthy. [If you find yourself on assignment in these parts of the world] don’t dangle too much temptation in people’s faces. And if it comes down to a choice between you and your equipment, hand over your equipment. Hopefully, it’s insured.” Try to minimize the potential loss of gear by not carrying everything on you. Rather, think in layers–have gear that you carry on your person, in your pockets or backpack, and gear that you carry in the car or hotel.
Be self-sufficient in equipment, supplies and skills.
If you’re caught in disaster areas, “you need to have the equipment, supplies, and skills either with yourself or among your teammates,” Shorey says, because you can’t be sure you find the supplies anywhere else. “You need to make sure that you have enough water, food, batteries, sunscreen, medications, and even toilet paper. You need to make sure that you have whatever things you might need.”
If you find yourself in a disaster zone, it’s good to know first aid.
“You should learn basic first aid skills,” Shorey advises. That’s because you can get badly injured and you find yourself in a situation where you need to take care of yourself or your team, until medical help arrives. “You need to have a TQ (tourniquet) and learn how to use it. Or you might need to have some antibiotics for the wound so that it won’t get infected, [even] anti-diarrhea medications, in case you get sick and lose a lot of fluids. You want to be self-sufficient in terms of skills, equipment, and training, until help arrives.”
Have a way to communicate with your family, friends and/or work.
“Before you go, make sure somebody knows where you are, and when you will call [or communicate in some way] next,” Shorey says. “That’s really, really important, because if something happens to you, by accident or [not], you need somebody to know that something has gone wrong. You need to make sure somebody knows where you are. And in case they don’t hear from you, write down a message for them telling them what they should do. You need to have an agreed procedure for [this kind of] situation.”
It’s a good idea to have at least two ways to communicate when caught in a disaster area. Satellite phones are often used in these cases. “Think things through,” Shorey advises, “and think of what to do if that communication dies.”
Mission and environment dictate the kind of disaster preparedness kit one should have. Presently, Shorey is working on a new nonprofit, Resilient JC, which will offer a wide range of information and guidance related to disaster preparedness, readiness, and becoming resilient. Among other things, RJC will offer training for independent reporters (and not only) who might have to put that kind of training to good use, when on assignment. “We’re striving to get ahead of the curve,” Simon Pereira Shorey explains, “to make our city [and NYC metro area] as resilient as possible to natural and man-made disasters that almost certain will hit us sooner or later.”
Find out more about Resilient JC by visiting online:
As always, thanks for stopping by!