Emergency Planning: Broadcasters

Disaster preparedness and recovery planning is designed to reduce the disruption of essential services when an emergency situation occurs. Emergency communications planning therefore is a key component of any disaster plan. Disaster plans should be flexible enough to be adapted to particular emergency situations. In formulating such plans, the main steps are preparation, response, and recovery. The goal is to develop and implement strategies that ensure the continued operation of facilities before, during, and after an incident.

Disaster Recovery Plans and Incident Response Manuals

The Media and Security Reliability Council, a federal advisory committee, prepared guidelines to develop a short term Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) and Incident Response Manual (IRM) for local radio and television stations. These documents (listed to the right) are intended to serve as tools for the timely resumption of essential services during emergencies. They cover disaster recovery maintenance, testing, prevention, emergency procedures, and recovery strategies. They also contain a vulnerability assessment checklist and an emergency evacuation plan template. We encourage radio and television stations to review these documents, update them as necessary, and adapt them to their particular needs. Other helpful documents can be found at the Media Security and Reliability Council website.

In their emergency communications plans, broadcasters should be sure to establish alternative methods of communication for critical personnel. Further, when developing your emergency communications plan, make certain that persons with disabilities and special needs in your organization are consulted, that their needs are considered (especially when planning evacuations), and that they are included in emergency response planning and testing. It is important to develop a list of employees with disabilities and instructions on how to contact them and keep them fully informed during an emergency (for example, how to send a text message to a deaf employee’s pager).

Employee training exercises should also include specialized training for employees with disabilities and those working with them. Consider holding a debriefing session following the exercise with employees or visitors with disabilities or special needs in order to determine how well the emergency procedures work for them and what, if anything, can be improved.

Priority Communication Services

For key emergency response staff members, broadcasters should take advantage of three federal programs that will support those staff members with priority provisioning and/or restoration of key communications circuits during an emergency. (see Network Reliability and Interoperability Council Best Practice 7-7-1011). The programs are:

  • TSP, or the Telecommunications Service Priority Program, provides organizations engaged in national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) functions with priority provisioning and restoration of telecommunications services that are vital to coordinating and responding to crises. Telecommunications service vendors prioritize service requests by identifying those services critical to NS/EP. A telecommunications service user with a TSP assignment is assured of receiving service by the service vendor before a non-TSP service user.
  • GETS, or the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service Program, provides emergency access and priority processing in the local and long distance segments of the Public Switched Network (PSN). It is intended to be used in an emergency or crisis situation during which the probability of completing a call over normal or other alternate telecommunication means has significantly decreased.
  • WPS, or the Wireless Priority Service Program, improves connection capabilities for a limited number of authorized national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) cell phone users. In the event of congestion in the wireless network, an emergency call using WPS will have priority queuing for the next available channel.

For More Information

The FEMA and websites provide additional information on emergency readiness and disaster preparedness.