2 September 2019 - RPS Partnership
As we watch the powerful storm hitting the Bahamas region, we are hoping that everyone gets through it alive. Hurricane Dorian has hit the Bahamas as a powerful storm with maximum sustained winds of 225 km per hour. Officials have warned the storm surge could be as high as 4. Journalists and humanitarian workers are often heading to the natural disasters as most people are watching it at home on TV. We bring you some top tips and advice here from our experienced trainers and consultants who have lived and worked in these places.
Contact us if your ogranisation is interested in a 2 day training course for how to live and work in or post a natural disaster on email@example.com
We've taken some of our top tips and advice and listed them below, so you can use them as a checklist. Come and join us on our open Hostile Environment Training courses. We have comprehensive lists for packing when you attend our courses; we can help you every step of the way, if you are new to this. Be Prepared!!
Health and security advice
Be self-sufficient and do NOT be a burden to an already strained system, do not get in the way of rescue and relief workers! Do follow warnings of authorities and disaster experts.
Assess the situation – do you need to be there to cover the story if your are a journalist?
Learn as much as you can about the type of disaster (hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, chemical spill, etc.) you are going to cover. Check the weather; there may be storms but very hot
Sometimes natural disasters take place in hostile environments. Civil society often breaks down which means an increase in crime
Journalists: Check in with your newsroom daily. Have backup plans if your communications fail. Make sure they know where you are and what you intend to do. If you move location, let them know. Ensure they have other local contacts in case you go missing
Health and Hygiene
Make sure you have the correct vaccinations for the country you are going to and ensure you are aware of any outbreaks of disease due to the disaster. Diseases associated with hygiene are common; cholera etc. Make sure you know what they are and how they are transmitted so you don’t become a casualty. Make sure you take something to wash yourself if there is no water (wetwipes, baby wipes etc)
Ensure you maintain your personal hygiene so you don’t get sick and ensure you know where the nearest hospital or medical facility is to your location
Clothing and personal equipment
Often in natural disasters, you may need to take tents, sleeping bags, cookers and food etc. BE PREPARED!
Ensure you have luggage which you can carry (rucksack) as you may not be able to wheel it. Ensure you have a waterproof cover for it.
Wear appropriate protective clothing and ensure it fits the heat and humidity. A hurricane or tropical storm will be wet, so make sure you have waterproof clothing if you plan to report from outside. Ensure you have good quality rain gear and that it fits you and make sure it is lightweight if appropriate. Wear sturdy boots or wellington boots/waders if in floods or hurricanes/floods
Ensure you keep enough kit with you for 48 hrs in case you can’t get back to your hotel. Take your grab bag with you at all times.
Ensure each member of the team has a grab bag at all times and that you have your emergency equipment with you; torch and spare batteries, wind up torch, warm clothing, water, water purification tablets, compass, knife, food etc
Journalists: Ensure all of your team has reflective gear, if planning to report outside
Money and Travel
Take sufficient cash to be able to pay for things if cash machines (ATMs) are not working, which is more than likely
Remember you may have to take a relief flight, so ensure you are able to carry all your luggage. Remember that hurricanes will close airports so make sure you get in before they close them, if not it may be too late. If an earthquake you may have to enter the region by overland, so make sure you are prepared for a difficult journey (see vehicle preparation)
Ensure your accommodation is safe and if in an earthquake zone that it will withstand another shock. Do not become a casualty. Ensure you check in and out with your hotel and they know when you plan to be back
Food and drink
Ensure you have bottled drinking water AND the means to purify water. Be self-sufficient. Have enough food and water to look after your crew. Do not assume you can buy food and water from shops. Even if you can, local residents probably need it more than you. Use dried food and freeze-dried food if you take cooking equipment with you. Energy bars are good.
A 4x 4 vehicle is better if there is a danger of flooding or you have to enter the region overland. Ensure you have checked your vehicle in advance of departure, and it is fitted with a working spare tyre and the necessary tools to change it. Make sure the car has jump leads and you know how to use them. Double check that tyres, wipers and lights are in good working order, and that the vehicle is fitted with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, cones and flares
Avoid driving through running water. Flash floods could carry your vehicle away. Do not exit vehicles in running water for the same reason. Ensure you have enough petrol/gas for your vehicle. Fill up at every opportunity
General hazards in natural disasters
Be aware of the risks for you or your team. Heavy wind and torrential rain create flying debris. Avoid canisters or containers that may contain hazardous chemicals and never be tempted to sniff or touch them.
Refrain from smoking (there may be fractured gas lines in earthquake devastated zones)
Journalists: Consider where you set up your live shots; avoid under or near large trees. This is because of the risk of being struck by lightning as well as falling trees and falling or flying branches. Do not use cables in or on the edge of still or running water. Do not approach or work in any area where cables have come down. Do not work in any area where you see power lines sparking
If you smell gas, natural gas or sewer odours, do not switch on engines and refrain from using mobile/cell phones. Leave the area on foot as quickly and safely as possible
A generator is often vital in situations where there is no power or electricity. Ensure you have checked you know how to use your generator and you have sufficient fuel for it stored in safe containers
Ensure you have a satellite phone with you and it is charged, and you carry a charger that can be used in the car. Mobile/cell phones may not work. Check in with your news desk at agreed times, advising them of your location and the current weather situation.
Take additional charged batteries for your laptop
Where possible, also take a detailed map of the area too as it is likely that you will not know or at least not recognise the environs. Take a satnav/GPS with you and ensure it has been updated with the latest maps
Assume there will be nowhere to charge your equipment, so be prepared!!
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to book on our courses. Call us for an informal chat about what your organisation is looking for.
Photos: RPS Partnership's consultants in Haiti.