FYI Corner: Preparing for Disaster - Fires, Hackers, Oh My!

Google the phrase “disaster preparedness” and you get quite a lot of results that, frankly, no one should ever be faced with. But the reality is that at least once in our lives we’ll be faced with channeling our inner scout and “be prepared” attitude. Be it fire, or flood, hacked web server, or an impending zombie attack (ok, look at Amy’s bio– we had to add that in) it is important to ensure that your station and its employees are prepared for any disaster.

Who better to share some words of wisdom than those who have been through tough situations and can relate to the unique needs a local public media station faces when it finds itself at the mercy of a disaster. Too many of you out there in #localpbs have been faced with disasters that have affected your station in ways that, prepared or not, you never wanted to face.

In November 2011, PBS Hawaii survived a fire in one of their studios after a light exploded during set up for a shoot a few days later. The station went off air immediately, buildings surrounding the station were evacuated and streets were shut down.

Traffic may have been bad but it was the uncertainty both for the safety of the station employees and their temporary inability serve the community that was of the most concern. Thankfully no one was injured in the fire and there were even station employees who were attempting to contain it until fire officials arrived on the scene.

Thanks to social media outlets like Twitter and mobile devices, residents near and employees of PBS Hawaii were able to quickly notify each other of the danger as it took place.

Now, months after the fire, PBS Hawaii is still recovering. The total cost of the damages was estimated to be in the ballpark of $250,000. One month ago, PBS Hawaii gave a look into how the restoration was going at the station. Here is a look at the video, featuring the station’s VP of Communication, Robert Wong Murray.

Due to these costs, PBS Hawaii began fundraising to assist with the construction of a new building. It was recently reported that the station has risen over $275,000 in grants from local foundations. PBS Hawaii’s new station is expected to open in 2014.

Since the fire at PBS Hawaii, other stations have taken precautions to inform their employees about disaster preparedness. Even the mentioning the word hacking is enough to send people into a tailspin of anxiety. Hacking does occur though and when it happens at a public media station is sends shockwaves through the system. Managers at WyomingPBS had to face this crisis recently but were able to band together to resolve the issue. Moreover some of their station staff is sharing their experience to inform the system about crisis communications, cyber-attacks, best practices and advice for when a crisis does occur.

Thomas Fischer a Web Developer/Graphic Designer at WyomingPBS presented at the 2011 NETA Conference in Kansas City, MO. During his informational session, Pushing the Crisis Button: Making the Best of a Bed Situation, Fischer discussed his firsthand experience dealing a hacking crisis and how best to protect your station. Should you find yourself the victim of a hacking Fischer gave some suggestions based on how the hacking was handled at his station.

Rather than pushing the crisis button Fischer said: Don’t panic – Remain calm most especially to your online presence (fans, followers, etc.); Don’t wait – reacting quickly and getting information to your fans and followers makes a difference; Responses can include sending an email; Or reaching out on Facebook and Twitter; Choose what you say or don’t say carefully; Keep perspective on what happened to report the crime.

John Lennon said it best in the song Beautiful Boy: “Life is What Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans...” Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Stations that find themselves at the center of a one will say the best offense is a good defense.

Has your station taken disaster relief precautions? If so, what are they? Please comment below.

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