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Stations Should Prepare for the Worst

Have a station emergency plan in place in case sudden attacks should occur

credit: iStockphoto/carlballou As I listened to radio reports coming in from the tragedy unfolding at the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16, I couldn’t help but ponder the significance of yet another senseless, brutal attack on United States soil. The greater the frequency and breadth of attacks, the more we will worry about our safety.

While sudden emergencies certainly affect on-air content, we’ll discuss that another time. For now, I’d like concentrate on security in our own radio station workplace.

Has your local management team discussed and implemented a security emergency plan? Heaven forbid you will ever have to use such emergency tactics at work. But with every workplace tragedy reported, your employees will be increasingly anxious for you to deliver a plan.

Again, the odds of your facility being attacked remain low, but who among us doesn’t want to feel safe at work? That old adage about finding your perfect mate can be also ring true as a sad statement of our own vulnerability: All it takes is one.

I’ve heard from several friends who have already gone through “shooter in the building” exercises at work. They learned where to hide, how to improvise a weapon and how to exit a building safely. One told me that he was instructed to exit a building under attack by holding his hands above his head, so the police wouldn’t shoot him by accident. That action would never have occurred to me.

If your corporate headquarters is not sending you an emergency plan to implement, you will have to construct one in-house. Nearly every city has security experts in police departments, FBI offices or military installations that can assist you in preparing a plan localized to your needs.

You’ve probably worked at stations where it was easier to get into the control room than into your own home, so your first action is to have an assessment done of your building to determine security risks. Who’s got keys and passes? Are the key cards or locks changed when employees leave the company? Are there security cameras (with someone monitoring them) posted in your parking lot, garage, lobby and hallways? How do people exit the building and when they do, where should they go and who should they contact to let everyone know they are safe?

Communication during any emergency is vital and smartphones have made it simple and fast. Android and iOS have apps that enable group messaging, so you can send text messages to your entire staff with one click. The trick is setting up a group in advance. While this sounds simple, it will take time to collect everyone’s mobile numbers into a database, dump them into the app and then test.

You’ll also want more than one manager to have this capability, so you’ll need to do the install on several phones. Because employees may change staff positions (or phone numbers), this information does require regular updating.

If your station has to be evacuated, what should be broadcast when nobody is in the facility? It’s a rare station today that doesn’t have an automation system, but this one should be on your checklist so that there’s no doubt about what goes on the air during what could be an extended period of time. You may decide to simulcast another radio or TV station in an emergency (with pre-permission).

Does your staff know who to call after they’ve called 911? Seems like everybody should have the boss’s mobile phone in his or her contacts list, but if they don’t call him regularly, the average employee may not know the number after leaving the facility.

These suggestions are not intended as a complete blueprint for your emergency plan. I submit them to you merely to get the process started. The cynical among us will no doubt comment about how ridiculous it is for us to worry about such detail for any given business that is unlikely ever to be attacked. I don’t know about you, but when I’m the manager, I want my staff to feel safe and prepared so they can concentrate on being top performers.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media.