Physical safety: Natural disasters and extreme weather

September 10, 2018 7:00 AM ET

Artwork: Jack Forbes

The dynamics of a natural disaster or extreme weather event are fluid and threats can materialize quickly. Journalists should research potential threats associated with the event they are covering and prepare accordingly.

To minimize the risks:

  • Understand the risk context of where the event is taking place. If in a conflict zone or area with a weak law enforcement, the potential for a deterioration in general safety is always a danger.
  • If possible, speak to as many journalists, aid agencies or locals in the region about the current situation, and plan accordingly.
  • Ensure your insurance plan provides coverage for the specific circumstances.
  • Upon arrival, quickly identify accommodation that is as secure as possible, along with food and water supplies. If necessary, stay outside the epicenter.
  • Plan an exit strategy or safe refuge. Have access to good transportation in case you need to leave quickly. Do not rely on taxis.
  • Plan to be self sufficient for a significant period. Being fully equipped is essential, but it can be a balance between being fully prepared and the weight of the equipment.

Emergency kit list:

  • A fully stocked first aid kit. Add extra sterilising wipe, gel or cream for cuts and scrapes. Include a full stock of personal medication, ensuring it is legal in operating theatre.
  • Appropriate clothing, including heavy duty gloves and sturdy shoes.
  • Folding jerry cans that can be used for storing water or fuel. Be mindful of the dangers of storing fuel.
  • Iodine tablets or portable water purification system. Water is essential and if you can carry in a supply, do so. However, this is not always feasible. Identify a safe source of water as soon as possible and always maintain a stockpile.
  • Several days' supply of nonperishable food. Ready-to-eat meals can be heavy to carry, but they are a practical solution for areas where it may be hard to source food.
  • Portable lighting, flashlight, and the necessary power source. The latter should preferably be solar powered. Journalists with a lot of kit to run may need to consider purchasing a portable generator.
  • Communication devices. Take a satellite phone and two-way radios as often the mobile network is no longer operational.
  • A tent, sleeping bag of appropriate tog, and spare clothing.
  • A multi tool, a can opener, duct tape, heavy duty trash bags are always handy. Dust masks are useful for situations where there is a high-level of destruction.

For additional information and tools for pre-assignment preparation and post-incident assistance, visit CPJ's Resource Center.

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