Red Cross confirms: Broadcast is key resource during disaster


It’s been a banner year for disasters – depending on location, US citizens have dealt with tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tropical depressions and full-blown hurricanes. The primary source of information to deal with these disasters, according to the Red Cross, is television and radio.

The Red Cross survey is simple – where do citizens go for info when there is trouble in their immediate area?
Television is the overwhelming choice – 90% rely on television for up-to-the-minute news and information. Local radio is right behind, used by almost three out of four Americans (73%). 63% consult online news sources, 27% have access to NOAA reports, 25% seek info from local utilities or governments, 18% go to Facebook, and – here’s a small bit of bad news for the mobile providers who are drooling over spectrum currently occupied by broadcast television – only 18% use mobile applications.

NAB’s Dennis Wharton commented, “It is no surprise that the Red Cross’s survey found most Americans turn to local TV and radio stations for emergency information. Broadcasters take seriously our role as ‘first informers,’ dedicating countless resources and manpower to providing up-to-the-second information during crisis situations.”

Wharton continued, “As we work with decision-makers on spectrum policies affecting the future of broadcasting and broadband, the Red Cross survey serves as a reminder that no technology can replicate free and local broadcasters’ reliability and capability of conveying lifesaving information when it matters most.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Broadcast is under attack by both the MVPD community and the wireless community – one doesn’t want to pay a fair price for value delivered, the other wants space on the airwaves – but neither is capable of delivering timely and essential information in times of duress, much less on a daily basis as broadcasters do routinely day-in and day-out. It is clearly in the public interest for the federal government in general and the FCC in particular to protect the ongoing robust health of the broadcast medium.

We recently rode out Hurricane Irene in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. To say that Irene was a matter of compelling interest is the understatement of the year. We were fortunate enough never to lose power, and that affected what information sources we were able to use – basically, that translated into a wide variety of sources.

Here’s out list: Local radio was on at all times when we were in our vehicles before and after the storm. We didn’t use it while in the house, however, since we never lost other sources of news.

Indoors, we had the television set tuned to sources of weather info – we much preferred the calm, down-to-earth and locally-focused coverage of our local television stations to the more histrionic and wider-geographic coverage of The Weather Channel, but we used both.

We have an NOAA radio, which we’ve used in the past but turned to sparingly this time – but we did use it.
We went online to check specific facts from time to time, since we could. The fact is we were surprised that we never lost our cable/internet connection.

Facebook was a good way to quickly let all our friends and loved ones know we were weathering the storm just fine, and it was an invaluable tool that members of the community used to share important local information that was too specific for even local TV to cover reliably.

We received very good information from our local government before and after the storm.

There was one source of information that we flagged from the Red Cross study that we did not use at all: Mobile apps. Not one, not once.