During a recent visit to a client radio station in the deep south, I asked the question “What is the most top of mind thing for the audience in the fall?” My expectation was along the lines of cooling weather, leaves changing colors before they fall, the smell of a furnace when it turns on for the first time of the season and preparing for the holidays. The answer I heard was “Hurricane Season.” It goes through November. There have been hurricanes to hit landfall in the USA in December.
This season has included Tropical Storms that plagued the eastern seaboard all the way from Florida into New England and on to Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Arlene. Hurricane Idalia wreaked havoc for the Gulf Coast states. New York City saw intense flooding, unlike anything seen in the past decade, as a result of an early October tropical storm named Lee. Hurricane Ian destroyed Fort Meyers a little more than a year ago. Hundreds of thousands were without power for days and weeks. Many endured serious damage or loss to their homes and belongings. The most unfortunate lost lives or suffered injury.
Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage, serve your community and satisfy your advertisers. It is in times of crisis and emergency that radio generates the most interest. When you need news now … its radio that responds first with information.
Help your audience plan an evacuation route. Plan such an escape route for your staff, too. Many are working remotely due to the pandemic and that situation has shown us that we can deliver information and entertainment from somewhere other than the eye of the storm.
Contact the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for their community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters.
Learn safe routes inland and share that information with your audience. Encourage them to be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland, or farther, to locate a safe place.
Provide the audience with information on-air and on-line to have disaster supplies on hand.
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water
Nonelectric can opener
Cash and credit cards
Encourage your audience to make arrangements for pets. Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters. Bring your face masks. A pandemic knows know boundaries and people sheltering in-place can be a breeding ground for this virus.
When it comes to supplies, this is where advertisers can get involved, as there will be demand for whatever they sell. Where do you get water, gasoline, food, sand bags, plywood, batteries, medicine and medical supplies, essentials for after the storm (toilet paper and tissues) and extra batteries. If you can find a hand winding radio, buy it. Encourage your audience to do the same. Over-the-air radio will more likely be available than an online stream of a radio station.
Let the audience know when the storm will arrive, what is expected meaning how much rain and how strong will the winds be, and how long is it expected to last. What should the audience expect in regard to traffic conditions?
Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and promote on-air, within your cluster of stations, that you will simulcast emergency information on all of your owned radio stations for the listening area.
Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
What areas need to be avoided due to flooding, downed wires, roads out or areas to avoid due to fires. Provide air-time to the local power and gas authorities to update the audience and let them know the progress and process to restore power and gas.
Where are the shelters for those in need? Where can families receive food? Where can individuals make donations? Where and how do you make insurance claims? Those are the questions that your listeners will want answers to and they’ll be looking to you and the internet for answers. Post the information on-line that your audience will want to hear on-air.
Know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning.
A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. It means there may be a hurricane to hit your area. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.
Watch = Watch for a Hurricane. Warning = We have a Hurricane and it’s going to hit your area.