(By Mike McVay) Hurricane Laura swept through the Gulf Coast, Midsouth, parts of the Midwest and Atlantic states this past week and weekend. Hundreds of thousands will be without power for days if not weeks. Many are enduring serious damage to their homes and belongings. The most unfortunate have suffered injury or have lost lives.
Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage, serve your community and satisfy your advertisers. It is in times of crisis and emergency that radio generates the most interest. When you need news now … its radio that responds first with information.
Help your audience plan an evacuation route. Plan such an escape route for your staff, too. Many are working remotely due to the pandemic and that situation has shown us that we can deliver information and entertainment from somewhere other than the eye of the storm.
Contact the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for their community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters.
Learn safe routes inland and share that information with your audience. Encourage them to be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland, or farther, to locate a safe place.
Provide the audience with information on-air and on-line to have disaster supplies on hand
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water
Nonelectric can opener
Cash and credit cards
Encourage your audience to make arrangements for pets. Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters. Bring your face masks. A pandemic knows know boundaries and people sheltering in-place can be a breeding ground for this virus.
When it comes to supplies, this is where advertisers can get involved, as there will be demand for whatever they sell. Where do you get water, gasoline, food, sand bags, plywood, batteries, medicine and medical supplies, essentials for after the storm (toilet paper and tissues) and extra batteries.
Let the audience know when the storm will arrive, what is expected meaning how much rain and how strong will the winds be, and how long is it expected to last. What should the audience expect in regard to traffic conditions?
Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and promote on-air, within your cluster of stations, that you will simulcast emergency information on all of your owned radio stations for the listening area.
Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Air continual updates. Track the storm. Track the tornadoes that are spawned from a hurricane. Put authorities on the air. A weather expert, if you have one, and if not someone from the National Weather Service. The Police, First Responders (like the Fire Chief), Spokesperson from the hospital, as well as someone from the Red Cross. During the storm, which is the smallest part of your coverage, you want to be as specific and targeted as possible … down to geography like specific blocks and well known locations.
What areas need to be avoided due to flooding, downed wires, roads out or areas to avoid due to fires. Provide air-time to the local power and gas authorities to update the audience and let them know the progress and process to restore power and gas.
Where are the shelters for those in need? Where can families receive food? Where can individuals make donations? Where and how do you make insurance claims? Those are the questions that your listeners will want answers to and they’ll be looking to you and the internet for answers. Post the information on-line that your audience will want to hear on-air.
Know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning. A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]