Bullet-proof facilities

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While writing this article, Hurricane Ike is blowing into the Gulf of Mexico, just 400 miles south of me and making its way to the Texas coastline. While Ike had no impact on my location, it certainly underlines the importance of being prepared for these types of events.

As part of the group charged with maintaining a broadcast facility, engineers have the added responsibility to ensure the stations continue operating through all types of emergencies. Having the ability to keep a usable signal on the air to disseminate information to the public is the primary reason licenses are issued. Serving in the public interest should be enough of a reason to keep a facility operational during these events; but the station is also a business and it is in the best interest of the owners to ensure continuity in the entire business operation. With so much of a typical station's data residing on the hard drives of a server or PC, you can lose in an instant what may have taken years to create. The key is to have a plan, make sure every employee knows the plan and his role, and create an appropriate due-diligence checklist.

What is an emergency?

The term "emergency" doesn't necessarily need to be a catastrophic situation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines an emergency as, "any unplanned event that can cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, customers or the public; or that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the facility's financial standing or public image."

The agency also lists some of those events to include: chemical, dam failure, earthquake, fire or wildfire, flood, hazardous material, heat, hurricane, landslide, nuclear power plant emergency, terrorism, thunderstorm, tornado, tsunami, volcano and winter storm.

The due-diligence checklist

If your station doesn't already have corporate-wide plans in place, there are several approaches to creating a comprehensive plan.

Your checklist should take into account two general situations: 1) Planning for the emergency — This will serve as the guideline and standard operating procedure for the company's plan to mitigate a potential situation. 2) Creating a disaster recovery plan — This will be the roadmap to getting the business returned to a state of normalcy.

Things to consider

As with most businesses, broadcast facilities are a collection of different systems and functions that work together to create the final end result. You will want to determine and list those functions and the proper personnel to address the issues.

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