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Artwork: Jack Forbes

Physical Safety: War Reporting

October 11, 2019 1:50 PM ET

Reporting from the front lines of a conflict is one of the most challenging assignments a journalist can undertake. All war correspondents should have hostile environment training, up-to-date medical training, and the correct safety equipment before going on assignment in a conflict zone.

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Here are some recommendations to mitigate risks:

Prepare thoroughly:

  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment, including any dangers you may face and what emergency procedures are in place. Complete a will and inform your next of kin of your intentions. Ensure a manager, colleague, or friend views the risk assessment
  • Research the background to the conflict: know who the combatants are, what weapons and tactics are being used, the reason for the conflict, and which proxy countries are involved
  • Research whether specialist weapons are in use, such as chemical, depleted uranium (DU) or flechette rounds
  • Be able to identify uniforms and vehicles on all sides
  • Study maps and any literature to help prepare a plan for your coverage
  • Check your equipment, especially trauma kit, body armor, and means of communication

On assignment:

  • Have a plan for where you will sleep, access food, and keep equipment and cash safe
  • Get to know the “battlefield” including where the front lines are and how fluid they are
  • Find out if attacks are occurring in rear areas such as ambushes, special forces operations, or air attacks. Is there indiscriminate shelling? Identify patterns such as dawn bombardments, or dusk air assaults. Know where minefields are located and where snipers operate
  • Know where local and military first aid facilities are located and how to get there
  • Be aware of potential targets, such as key installations
  • Always have a contingency plan for a hasty extraction, and make sure to communicate it clearly with your emergency contact
  • Try to work with other journalists for mutual support
  • Take regular breaks and stay healthy

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