In an emergency or disaster, broadcasters can be the biggest help to a community of any services. There’s nothing like watching broadcasters shift into immediate action in a natural or man-caused disaster. It goes beyond any rules or regulations. Commercial or non, stations put away the music, turn off the sports or talk, and pitch in. And the best part is there’s nothing between the station and the community. If the transmitter’s on the air, they’re communicating to everyone who has a radio.
Did you spot the fly? If the transmitter’s on the air…can, at times, be an issue. If a tornado takes down a tower, it’s a problem. And in the past, it sometimes became complicated by first responders. When areas were cordoned off for safety or other protective reasons, getting past the yellow tape to get a station back on the air was sometimes difficult. At times, part of the problem was a degree of disorganization. The propensity of some broadcasters to disobey instruction in the name of “…public interest, convenience, and necessity…” didn’t help matters.
The Emergency Response Broadcaster Act Program addresses the issues that can surface during a disaster or crisis. It establishes common approaches and procedures for managing emergencies and the people involved in them. For the broadcaster, it means certifying designated individuals who can obtain access “behind the tape” in order to service their facilities.
How to get certified?
It’s pretty simple, if your state has established a procedure inside its emergency action plan. The application part is what you would expect. Basically, who are you? Who do you work for? What are the call letters? Where is the station located? That’s followed by a statement by station management certifying that you are who you say you are. Put those together with a picture for your ID and you’re about a quarter of the way there.
The other three-quarters? Take two FEMA training courses. These can be taken at some state broadcasters’ meetings or, absent that, online. The courses are IS-100.B: Introduction to Incident Command. and IS-700.A: National Incident Management System (NIMS). If you take the courses online, when you’ve finished you can take companion online exams and after passing, you’ll receive certificates for both course completions. Package those (they come as .pdf’s) along with the other elements above and submit all to your state broadcasting association. In a short time, you’ll get your identification.
About the courses, here are my thoughts:
· These are introductory courses. Don’t think that when you’ve finished, you’re an expert in disaster management. That’s not the purpose. The purpose really is to learn how disaster/crisis managers and first responders work with one another, and how you need to conduct yourself inside that operation.
· They also help you understand the commonality of disaster/crisis elements and to be able to carry modes of action from one event to another.
· Neither course is difficult but it does mean paying attention and reading closely – you really don’t want to be standing next to a rising river reading the course content for an answer to a procedural question.
· Some of the content is common sense. But, come on. Would you want it otherwise? In fact, that’s a big part of the approach. Common sense, e.g., Use plain and simple language in communication. No “10 codes” no jargon…plain language so that anyone listening can understand. Common sense. Duh.
· Plan on a day for both. You’ll be done in much less time but take your time and read – and digest – the materials.
· The exams aren't hard; it just covers what you studied. If you give it a shot and don’t qualify, you can repeat it.
There is one quirk, at least as I see it. You don’t give them any information about yourself until you’re finished. Then you provide identification, address, email address…the usual. Heed the warning about email – enter their address into your email’s “good guy” address book so that your certificates don’t get dumped into a spam folder or deleted.
When your ID card shows up, call your local emergency people and introduce yourself. Put the card in your wallet. With luck, you’ll never have to use it. But should a disaster occur, you’ll be able to get to your sites to keep your stations on the air and maybe help save some lives.