Prepare a newsroom crisis plan

October 16, 2013 01:30

By Derrick Hinds, RTDNA

Does your newsroom have a crisis plan?

Reporters often carry a "go bag" with extra clothes, boots, jackets and other supplies in case they end up on a story away from home or in the elements for an extended period of time. But that's just the beginning.

As newspeople, we often think that we could spontaneously deal with nearly any situation that lands on our desks. But what if you suddenly didn't have a desk?

We need only remember events like Hurricane Katrina that forced some broadcasters out of their stations, floods in North Dakota where one local newspaper had to relocate operations miles away, or when a television station in Minnesota was gutted by fire, to understand why planning is essential.

To assist your newsroom in developing a crisis plan, RTDNF developed a thorough list of questions to consider. We've included it on the training tab of our website for easy access. It asks 50 questions, covering areas such as:

  • Coverage planning
  • Communications
  • Equipment
  • Health
  • Newsroom mobility
  • Personnel
  • Security
  • Contacts

It also contains a checklist of contact phone numbers you would want to have available in the event of a crisis situation.

Do crisis plans work? Because of advance planning, the radio and television stations of New Orleans were able to continue broadcasting in the wake of the storm, the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota never missed an issue and KBJR-TV in Minnesota didn't miss a single newscast despite the disaster. A crisis plan is like having a "go bag" for your entire newsroom. It's time to start packing.

Does your station have a crisis plan from which others could learn? Let us know in the comments below.