Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What you can do to prepare for a disaster

By Julie Bowman

People rely on the government to immediately save them during a disaster or crisis for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to a lack of preparedness.  People don't prepare for a number of reasons  (I think of them as the preparedness myths):

  • The idea that it won’t happen here or to me so I don’t need to worry.
  • The sometimes overwhelming feeling that goes along with becoming prepared, so people give up.
  • The costs people associate with becoming prepared. 
  • The idea that if I have insurance I don’t need to prepare.  

All of these reasons may seem valid, but in reality, they aren’t and they really are myths in a sense.

A 72-hour kit can be large or small
People in the preparedness field (emergency managers and , yes, private vendors) need to convince people not only of the importance of being prepared for an emergency as individuals and families, but they also need to provide them the information necessary to convince them their reasons are myths. Emergency managers can accomplish this in some relatively simple ways.

First, emergency personnel need to utilize every possible opportunity to reach the public with accurate information about preparedness.

  • Most cities send out some form of newsletter with the water billing statement; in the first issue of the year, do a brief article about preparedness and then tell that each month there will be a step listed to help the public become prepared; follow up with a monthly step that will equip families with the essentials by the end of the year.  
  • Utilize local cable access programming and consider creating a monthly show that demonstrates putting together preparedness supplies using what you already have at home.  
  • Create a public outreach program that not only teaches the how’s of preparedness, but the why’s as well.  
  • Often times, people don’t understand why they need to prepare, so teach about the hazards that exist in the community and what the city will do to prioritize their response to issues in the aftermath.
  • Teach the programs in churches, community centers, local fraternal organizations such as the Elks Club and the Lions Club.  
  • Use non-profits and volunteers to help teach preparedness and help people make 72-hour kits. The Disaster Discovery Center in Utah is trying to do just that.
  • Another thing to do is reach out to the kids in the elementary schools with preparedness information; teach them how important it is for each family to have a preparedness plan.  Once you get the kids involved and understanding, the parents will follow because the kids will make them (McKay, 2012). 

 A key to teaching preparedness is to not overwhelm people with the information.  Reiterate that preparedness is a process – you don’t have to do it all in one big bite, instead, approach it in small increments and you don’t have to go to great expense to get there.

Second, businesses, families, and individuals can do a lot to help themselves recover from a disaster and be resilient.

  •  Each of these groups should create a disaster recovery plan.  This should include communication information, evacuation lists, important papers and documents, insurance information.  
  • Outline the things that need to be done to recover, and then make a plan that suits your needs and budget to become resilient if the worst ever does happen.  
  • At the UVU Emergency Services Conference last spring, we learned from Darlene Turner of the Disaster Discovery Center about Rebound in 72™, a plan for personal resiliency. It broke down the preparedness process into eight areas of need in our lives by timeframes post impact.  This plan is a method that simplifies the entire process into those easily digestible bites.  Adopt this plan or something similar to ensure you are covering all of your disaster needs.  Then, begin obtaining/doing those things that fulfil the needs outlined.  Make sure you have a plan for shelter, food & water, clothing, sanitation & hygiene, communication, and transportation.  
  • At least annually, update your plans and any kits you have created (72 hour kits, car kits, tool kits, first aid kits, etc.), and replace expired and outdated items.  Change out stored water at the same time.  
  • Talk with your family about your plan and practice those things that you can practice.  

How to create a 72-hour kit with minimal resources

It is important to get people moving in the direction of having a 72 hour kit, but recognizing that you don't have to create it overnight.  See what you already have at home first.  People would be surprised at how much they already have.  Sure, my 72 hour kit is probably the Cadillac of 72 hour kits and it is likely overkill, but since I don't like to camp, I've tried to plan for every possible contingency, and I'm blessed to have the resources to do so.  At the other end of the spectrum are basic (and I do mean basic) survival based 72 hour kits.  We just put them together for $8 each (excluding food, which can be obtained in the way of meal bars - 3 each day for 3 days - for about $12).  It is amazing how little you really NEED to survive for 72 hours. 

72-hour kits at school

The idea of having a 72 hour kit for my child at school is one we have been working on for quite some time with a lot of resistance.  The school says there is no place to keep them in the classrooms and they don't see 72 hour kits for the kids as necessary at school.  So I finally created a little kit in a 25 oz. wide mouth water bottle specifically for her to carry in her backpack back and forth to school each day.  It does not contain all the same items that would be in a normal, basic 72 hour kit, but it does have things for her to eat, an emergency blanket, a small inflatable pillow, water filtration tablets, a tiny stuffed animal, a picture of the family and a note from mom and dad along with a couple other things. It also includes my contact numbers and phone numbers of family out-of-state. It is lightweight and it does the job.  I also have her keep a factory sealed water bottle in her desk and I make sure she has a full water bottle with her each morning when she goes out the door.  There are always simple things we can do to be at least a little prepared.          

Become informed if you aren’t, and begin preparing!     

McKay, J. (2012, August). Who’s prepared? Not many.  Emergency Management. Retrieved from

Country unprepared for disasters

By Paige Ramsey
Most American has been under the impression that the government should be taking care of them after a disaster. According to the End of American Dream website article "55 Percent Of Americans Believe That The Government Will Take Care Of Them If Disaster Strikes," by Michael Snyder,
"44 percent of all Americans do not have first-aid kits in their homes. 48 percent of all Americans do not have any emergency supplies stored up. 53 percent of all Americans do not have a 3 day supply of nonperishable food and water in their homes. Essentially, what we have got is about half the country that is completely and totally unprepared. About half the nation is sitting back and relying on the government to make all of the preparations"(Snyder, 2012).
Steps that public managers can take to convince people of the importance of being prepared for an emergency as an individual and family are that they can show that the government is not in a position to help all the time by bring up examples of Hurricane Katrina. If that doesn’t work then another step would be to have emergency preparedness fairs etc. Honestly though if someone believes the government will help them without putting forth any effort then they themselves need to make the change and public officials can only do so much.
Families and businesses can start to prepare themselves for disaster by starting 72-hour kits, making sure that their homes and cars have etc. food and water. Also businesses can have an emergency plan and places to shelter if necessary. Also making sure that they have the right insurance coverage is a good way to prepare for disasters.

Snyder, M. (2012, July 22). 55 Percent Of Americans Believe That The Government Will Take Care Of Them If Disaster Strikes. End Of The American Dream. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

Monday, September 08, 2014

Ebola outbreak testing Homeland Security strategy

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recently released the second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review that defines a set of risk-informed priorities for the homeland security enterprise as a whole. One of those priorities is “A Homeland Security Strategy for Countering Biological Threats and Hazards,” to include – while not being limited to – addressing of “emerging infectious diseases that are highly disruptive (e.g., viruses that could cause human pandemic).” The current Ebola outbreak and the scenarios it may involve put that priority to a test, and also encourages policy and academic experts, and the public, to think about biological threats and hazards writ large and how to ensure effective crisis response and a resilient nation.

Alexander Siedschlag, chair of Homeland Security at Penn State Harrisburg, says the Ebola outbreak provides "an incentive to consider the variety of challenges that biological threats and hazards pose to a national preparedness and an all-hazards approach to homeland security. In short: How could and should Ebola make us think about the “bio” dimension of homeland security? And how well prepared are we to manage “bio” risks. "

Penn State Harrisburg has scheduled a panel Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 12  noon with Thomas Minton, director of Pennsylvania Homeland Security, and Kent Butts, senior lecturer at Penn State, to discuss the implications for homeland security of the current Ebola outbreak. This panel and discussion features a multidisciplinary mix of experts who teach at Penn State’s School of Public Affairs. It is free and open to the public; no registration is required. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management

The effects of natural and manmade disasters have become more frequent, far-reaching, and widespread. As a result, preserving the safety, security, and prosperity of all parts of our society is becoming more challenging. Our Nation’s traditional approach to managing the risks associated with these disasters relies heavily on the government. However, today’s changing reality is affecting all levels of government in their efforts to improve our Nation’s resilience while grappling with the limitations of their capabilities. Even in small- and medium-sized disasters, which the government is generally effective at managing, significant access and service gaps still exist. In large-scale disasters or catastrophes, government resources and capabilities can be overwhelmed.

Homes destroyed when a tornado hit Joplin, MO May 22, 2011.
The scale and severity of disasters are growing and will likely pose systemic threats.2 Accelerating changes in demographic trends and technology are making the effects of disasters more complex to manage. One future trend affecting emergency needs is continued population shifts into vulnerable areas (e.g., hurricane-prone coastlines). The economic development that accompanies these shifts also intensifies the pressure on coastal floodplains, barrier islands, and the ecosystems that support food production, the tourism industry, and suburban housing growth. Other demographic changes will affect disaster management activities, such as a growing population of people with disabilities living in communities instead of institutions, as well as people living with chronic conditions (e.g., obesity and asthma). Also, communities are facing a growing senior population due to the Baby Boom generation entering this demographic group. Consequently, changes in transportation systems and even housing styles may follow to accommodate the lifestyles of these residents. If immigration trends continue as predicted, cities and suburbs will be more diverse ethnically and linguistically. Employment trends, when combined with new technologies, will shift the ways in which local residents plan their home-to-work commuting patterns as well as their leisure time. All of these trends will affect the ways in which residents organize and identify with community-based associations and will influence how they prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Read the rest of the white paper.

Describe the whole community approach to dealing with disasters? What are some of the factors that nake communities complex? How can emergency service personnel leverage and strength socialinfrastructure, networks, and assets? How does this approach relate to public safety and counter-terrorism?

Core standards for humanitarian relief

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Incident Command and Media Considerations in School Incidents

By Megan Lundgren

Sheriff talks to media after incident -
Emergency situations happen when they are least expected. Being prepared for the incidents that could occur is essential to a rapid and effective response. In 2006, a man entered a high school in Colorado and held six female student hostage. While only one student was killed, the loss was significant to the community. The response to the incident was well orchestrated overall but initial set up was less than desirable. The incident command system (ICS) should be established rapidly at every incident so that incidents may be responded to more smoothly. Training should be done frequently among local agencies as well as with schools and agencies from neighboring jurisdictions. A public information officer should be assigned to work with the media at incidents to ensure dissemination of correct information. The news media should set up ways to verify “facts” received from anywhere other than the public information officer. An information dissemination location should be assigned for media use in every incident to create more scene control and to ensure better information dissemination. 
Incident Command and Media Considerations in School Incidents
The news media have the goal of being the first to “break” a big story. The news media will often take whatever actions necessary to reach their goal. In natural and man-made disasters, reporters are always there to let the public know what is going on at the scene and they may even release information that may not be completely true. A brief internet search of any disaster will reveal differences and discrepancies in reports from different media outlets. This paper will cover a high school shooting/hostage situation that occurred in Colorado in 2006 and what lessons can be learned from the response and the media coverage. 

Description of the Case
On September 27, 2006, a man entered Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado wearing a hoodie and carrying a backpack. He found his way to room 206 on the second floor where he entered, placed his backpack on the table, pulled out a handgun, and told the boys and the teacher to leave the room. The man fired one shot as warning and the teacher and all but six female students left the room. Four of the female students were released as the hours went by. At approximately 1:30 PM (two hours after the teacher left the room), communication with the man and the two students ceased with the warning that something was going to happen at 4 PM. Another nerve-wracking two hours passed with no communication from the inside, but with reports of sexual assault from some of the girls. At approximately 3:30 PM, a SWAT team entered the room to rescue the two remaining girls. One girl escaped to safety while the other was shot by the man, who then turned the gun on himself. The man was pronounced dead on scene and the girl was taken by helicopter to a Denver hospital where she was pronounced dead (Illescas, Rouse, & Bunch, 2006; Associated Press, 2006).

Problem Statement
According to the Platte Canyon High School Shooting After Action Report (Hodges, 2006), several problems arose during the response to this incident which are important to note: 1) The incident command was not set up as efficiently as it should have been, adding to the confusion. The specific problem was the lack of coordination at the beginning of the response among emergency personnel due to incident command not being set up immediately. 2) The public relations division of the incident command was not set up in a timely manner, causing confusion among media personnel. Many news stations reported the incident, some talking to emergency responders, others talking to students and parents. 3) The reports that were released did not have all of the information or they contained incorrect information, but they released the stories anyway, causing undue stress to parents and others involved. 
In this case, the most urgent issue was that of incident command being set up immediately to ensure a coordinated and timely response to the incident. This could arguably be the most important problem that occurred as well as it, in some ways, affected the other problems that occurred. However, the importance of having a flow of correct information is unquestionably essential in all disaster situations, whether natural or man-made.

Data Analysis
Incident command was not set up immediately due to the fact that “an emphasis on incident command was not typically a part of Active Shooter training” (Hodges, 2006, p. 10). As emergency response personnel arrived, there was unclear direction as to what they needed to be doing. The incident command was not set up until the situation changed to that of a hostage situation (Hodges, 2006). 
The lack of incident command had an impact on the lack of correct information being disseminated to the media. According to the After Action Report (Hodges, 2006, p.14), “Park County did not have a PIO [public information officer] initially assigned to the incident. This delay caused media agencies to report incorrect information. Students inside the school gave the media information, which was often false and misleading.” Due to the misleading information given to the media from the students and the lack of official word from incident command, the incorrect information was thus reported by the media. In turn, this caused much undue stress and worry on the parents and family members of all involved. 

Key Decision Criteria
The main outcome that needs to be achieved in future incidents is that of the rapid establishment of the incident command post, with all positions being filled. As multiple agencies train together before a disaster strikes, the better they will be able to function under the stress of an incident. Bigley and Roberts (2001, p. 1297) suggest, “to the extent an organization has the capacity to implement preplanned organizational solutions rapidly enough to meet the more predictable aspects of an evolving incident, potential reaction speed is increased, depletion of cognitive and other resources is reduced, and the probability of organizational dysfunction is diminished.”
Part of the incident command system is to have a public information officer assigned to inform the media and the public of what is happening at the scene. Establishing this position swiftly and setting up specific times for updates to the media will increase the dissemination of correct information to all involved. The news media must also be patient while receiving information, evaluate the information received and the sources of the information, to ensure correct information dissemination and reduce “misinformation and backtracking” (Ostrow, 2006). 

Alternatives Analysis
Alternatives are possible ideas that can be implemented to correct the problems found in the case. Some alternatives are: increase multi-agency and multi-jurisdictions training opportunities; create a school crisis team; conduct training between the school crisis team and the community emergency services agencies, or in other words, integrate the school crisis team into the incident command system with the agencies (Nickerson, Brock, & Reeves, 2006); assign a specific place as the location where information about disasters or crises will be disseminated; set up metal detectors at the doors of the high school; require students to wear identification badges; review the ethical guidelines of the local media organizations; train the media on what facts should be reported in an emergency situation; create guidelines for the media to verify “facts” of the incident; and establish a hotline where individuals may call to get information on the progress of an incident. While not all of these alternatives will have an impact on the key decision criteria, certain recommendations will be given.

The first objective that needs to be met is the rapid implementation of the incident command system. To accomplish this, all incidents (great or small) should be handled using this system; as practice and habit can create better response on bigger or more stressful incidents. Along with that, all schools should create a school crisis team and those teams should regularly train with local emergency personnel as well as with those from neighboring jurisdictions. 
Second, a public information officer should be established to cover every incident. If responding to a small scale incident, this position should be filled, but it may not be needed. By having the habit of always having someone in this position, when a large incident occurs, this position will be filled and thus correct information can be communicated to the media through established routes during an incident. 
The emergency services agencies should work with the media to establish guidelines of what information will be disseminated to them, when it should be available and assign a specific area where the dissemination will occur. Guidelines should be established to verify any information received from sources other than the public information officer or emergency organizations. The media should be content with the information disseminated through these means during an incident. Interviews may be conducted once the incident is complete to gain a broader sense of what happened. 

Action and Implementation Plan
The plan to accomplish these recommendations may be as follows: School crisis teams will be established within a year and will follow guidelines from the state emergency managers in conjunction with local emergency managers. Practice drills for different scenarios are to be conducted every three months within the local agencies to ensure smooth operation at incidents. Practice drills are to be conducted every 6 months with emergency agencies from surrounding jurisdictions and with the school crisis teams. All incidents should be responded to using the ICS, effective immediately. 
News media outlets should establish a working relationship with emergency services agencies and respect their decisions of how information will be disseminated. Workshops will be conducted once a year to review public information policies between the media and the public information officer. A standard information dissemination location is to be established within 3 months and should be used for every incident necessary thereafter. Questions should be referred to the local and state emergency managers on any policies that have been set forth.  
Associated Press. (2006). Details from Colo. School shooting emerge. Crime & courts on Retrieved from
Bigley, G. A., & Roberts, K. H. (2001). The incident command system: High-reliability organizing for complex and volatile task environments. Academy of Management Journal, 44(6), 1281-1299. doi: 10.2307/3069401
Hodges, L. R. (2006). Platte canyon high school shooting after action report. Retrieved from
Illescas, C., Rouse, K.,  & Bunch, J. (2006, September 27). Hostage horror. The Denver Post. Retrieved from
Nickerson, A. B., Brock, S. E., & Reeves, M.A. (2006) School crisis teams within an incident command system. California School Psychologist, 11, 1163-72. Retrieved from
Ostrow, J. (2006). Columbine’s lessons not yet etched in TV. The Denver Post. 

Media Decision Making during a School Shooting: A Case Study

By Julie Bowman

The Columbine school shooting was the first to unfold live on television.  Within minutes, news media were interrupting programing to broadcast the news of what was happening.  Unfortunately, at such an early stage of the event, no one really knew for sure what was going on.  The television broadcast news media faces some very tough decisions about what to air.  There are graphic images to sort out, live interviews that may or may not contain the truth, and information that may, perhaps, need to be protected for both victims’ privacy and the ground operations being conducted by public safety officials.  As the events unfolded that day, news departments around the Denver metro area made mistakes, and some would even say they created the rule book for how not to cover such an event.  Media should always use four decision-making criteria when determining what to air.  This criterion includes timeliness in providing information, accuracy of the information provided, it should not interfere with ground operations, and the media should always remember to protect the rights of the victim.  While the status quo is a viable alternative, there are better choices.  News media can broadcast on a short time delay, they can only air information during a crisis that pertains to public safety that the viewer has an immediate need to know, and they can work together with the first responder community to gain a better relationship that helps both the media and emergency officials.  It will take a paradigm shift on the part of the media to accomplish these recommendations, but in the end, the media will receive less criticism for their actions and they will be a help rather than a hindrance in a crisis.  

Description of the Case
The Columbine high school shooting disaster in Littleton, Colorado, is known by most people simply as “Columbine”.    How can anyone forget the clear, sunny spring day in April 1999, when two high school students dressed in black toting weapons wreaked havoc on a suburban Denver school, in the end, killing thirteen as well as themselves (JCSO, 1999)?  It began as a quiet news day by most accounts, but Patti Dennis, the news director at Denver’s KUSA Channel 9, felt something was brewing, although she had no idea what that might be, she told her production staff just that (Shepard, ND ).  Within three hours, the media would be covering what would become one of the biggest news stories in the history of broadcast journalism in the Denver area (Barber, 2009).   

The Issue
School shootings and other mass shootings have become a major topic in our society (Maguire, Weatherby, & Mathers, 2002).  When these events occur, the public turns to the media for information.  As a result, the more violent the crime, the more attention it receives (Maguire et al, 2002).  The television news media has to make tough decisions about what to put on the air as a story unfolds during a live broadcast.  Because of the nature of television news and the sheer volume of cameras at this particular scene, there were graphic images, interviews with juveniles, and the myths that evolved into truths as the day went on.  When the identity of the gunmen was uncovered, a decision had to be made whether or not to air their names. There were live calls coming into the news stations themselves with people wanting to tell their stories from inside the school.  What is the appropriate way to cover a story of this nature when the public is viewing live?  What questions should reporters ask traumatized teens?  Should news anchors conduct on-air interviews with victims hiding inside the school calling on cell phones?  What do you show?  What don’t you show (Shepard, ND)?  

Data Analysis
In part, these problems occurred because the story was unfolding so rapidly.  News media began picking up on radio traffic via scanner as early as 11:20 a.m.  Not long after that, the three major Denver stations began breaking in to local programming to inform the public of the shooting (Barber, 2009).  The news helicopters were filming images of the outside of the school where several victims lay.  News stations had to determine which of these images should make it on television.  With so many people covering the story, it was a race to get the information out first.  One station had film of paramedics checking on two of the victims outside the cafeteria and walking away from them.  Wisely, the station did not air that footage (Shepard,  ND).  About two hours into the event, a student who had been shot in the head while in the library had made his way to the windows.  He was intent on breaking out a window and escaping (JCSO, 1999).  News helicopters saw the student in the window and began filming him.  Many of the communication centers involved in the incident were watching the coverage and relayed information about the student to commanders on the ground.  Those on the ground, with the assistance of an armored vehicle, were able to approach the library and ultimately safely evacuate the subject.  Watching the scene was horrific and the student could easily be identified by anyone who knew him.  While it made for an exciting news scene, imagine the horror his family and friends must have felt if they were watching.  Was this appropriate to air?  At that moment, at least one news station decided it was.  
The NBC affiliate, KUSA Channel 9, received a call from an individual clearly upset and wanting to speak with someone about the event.  He was a student from the school who had made it out and was safe.  Channel 9 put the individual on the air live with the anchors who tried to illicit information from the caller.  The interview quickly changed into the anchors trying to console the individual, finally directing him to go speak with his parents. (Barber, 2009).  While this call was legitimate, KUSA later took two calls live that turned out to be fake.  When asked if she made the right decision about putting these people on the air, News Director Patti Dennis stated, “It was one of those decisions we could have made smarter.  Now, I would have talked to him, debriefed him, taped him and thought about it” (as quoted in Barber, 2009).  
Plenty of myths came from the ongoing news reporting that day and in the months that followed.  Everyone was looking for a different angle on the story, and there were plenty of people willing to provide information – accurate or otherwise.  As Dave Cullen, Author of Columbine writes, “The Trench Coat Mafia was mythologized because it was colorful, memorable, and fit the existing myth of the school shooter as outcast loner.  All of the Columbine myths worked that way.  And they all sprang to life incredibly fast—most of the notorious myths took root before the killers’ bodies were found” (2009, p. 149).  Those who are close to the case, investigators, prosecutors, and victim’s families no longer believe the myths, but the public seems to take them as truth (Cullen, 2009).  Much of the media argues that with the amount of chaos and the number of witnesses at Columbine, it would be impossible to get all the facts straight.  Interestingly, most of the myths that came out of Columbine all had a shred of truth, but the fact that the news media latched on to the myths as they came out caused more and more people to believe the myths.  One example is that early on, only a handful of students had mentioned the Trench Coat Mafia and possibly responsible for the shooting.  Once the news media began reporting their involvement, a rapidly increasing number of kids began to believe the information and believed it to be true because the new had reported it that way (Cullen, 2009).  The rapid unfolding of the story along with the myths that were coming out of the event created an environment in which the Denver television news media had never before found themselves.  Normal fact checking seemed to fly out the window, resulting in incorrect information going out as factual.    
Key Decision Criteria
There are four primary decision making criteria to be analyzed.  These criteria are:
1. Timeliness:  Is the public getting needed information in a timely manner?
2. Accuracy:  Is the information the media is putting out to the public accurate and verified?
3. Non-interfering:  Is the information the media broadcasts interfering in any way with the ability of the public safety officials and other first responders to do their job?
4. Protection of Rights:  Are the actions the media is taking protective of the rights of the victims in the situation?

Alternatives Analysis
The alternatives to be examined in this situation are:
1. Maintain the status quo.  Change nothing about how media reports on breaking stories of this magnitude.  They are doing the best they can with the information they receive and the public has a right to know what is going on.
2. Work on a short time delay.  Rather than airing raw news film and airing cell phone calls live, delay putting out information to the public for a period of thirty seconds or a minute.  During this delay, media will have the opportunity to evaluate potential problematic issues.  While this promotes accuracy, better protects the rights of the victims and is less likely to interfere with public safety operations, timeliness is impacted in a negative manner.
3. Air only the things that the public needs to know for their safety.  While the news media’s focus is not public safety, in this kind of a situation, public safety should be one of their top concerns.  Timeliness is important, but accuracy of information is paramount to the safety of the public.  The general public does not need to know how many people were shot or where inside the building they were shot and this kind of information could compromise the emergency operations.  Walking up and shoving a microphone in the face of a traumatized student for a live sound bite is not protective of that person’s rights.     
4. Through a consortium of news media and public safety officials, create a method that helps the news media perform their job accurately and timely without interfering with emergency personnel.  This procedure should set standards of how and when to conduct interviews with people on or fleeing the scene.  After an event of this nature, these same officials should sit together and evaluate how news coverage was provided and how things could improve.

There is no easy solution to the problem that exists.  “The reporting of school shooting cases on network newscasts reflects the “herd mentality” nature of the media” (Maguire et al, 2002).  In order to provide an environment wherein timely, accurate, and non-interfering news coverage can take place while at the same time protect the rights of those involved, media outlets are facing a total paradigm shift.  This paradigm shift will need to include several alternatives.  One thing is certain, the status quo is not the answer.  A good policy the news media should follow would include working on a short time delay, and as the Channel 9’s News Director indicated, vet, tape and think (Barber, 2009).  It would be in the best interest of the media and public safety officials to sit down together and discuss the ways the media can help and the ways they hinder in these situations.  As events are unfolding, the media should consider working on a delay.  This will resolve the problem of fake calls that media outlets encountered and will prevent graphic footage the public doesn’t need to see from being aired.  It will also provide the media with a chance to cross check and verify information better.  Because a reporter cannot control what an interviewee may say live, the brief delay will allow stations to not only cross check the information they provide, but also they will be able to control what is aired.  This will cut down on the myths that are propagated by the media.  The media should also refrain from interviewing juveniles without their parent’s consent, and they should also refrain from airing names of both victims and perpetrators before officials have formally released that information.      
Action and Implementation Plan
First and foremost, the media and public safety officials need to work together during school shootings and related incidents or disasters.  Open communication between the two is necessary for this to happen, and it should happen before the disaster strikes.  The first step to be taken is for the parties to meet together and create guidelines under which both sides can agree to operate.  Next, the media will need to make policy changes within their organizations and in some cases, train their employees about the changes.  The media should adopt the position they are the conduit of necessary information during the unfolding of the crisis, and wait until the crisis is winding down before airing special interest stories.  It is also necessary for the media to put in place a policy of fully interviewing and debriefing subjects before they air interviews.  This will protect the victims as well as protect the reputation of the media in many cases.  All of this will take buy-in on the part of the media and it won’t be easy.  Perhaps the best way to view the situation from behind the news desk is to think about how you would want information disseminated if it was your child in the school.  

Barber, L. (2009). Failures in the media during Columbine shooting. Retrieved from
Cullen, Dave. (2009). Columbine. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO). (2000, May). The Final Report of the Columbine Incident.  Retrieved from
Maguire, B., Mathers, R.A., & Weatherby, G.A. (2002). Network news coverage of school
shootings. The Social Science Journal, 39, 465-470. doi: 10.1016/S0362-3319(02)
Sheperd, A. (1999).  Covering the big one. The American Journalism Review. Retrieved from