Newspaper industry bodies have issued a timely reminder for publishers to check they have plans in place to cope with a local emergency.
Recent floods in Carlisle and the dramatic increase in sales of the News & Star has emphasised the demand for information through the local press in a disaster, and the Society of Editors says lessons can be learned from the paper’s experiences.
The Newspaper Society is also warning publishers to be vigilant, and says if local newspaper production, printing and distribution is not currently given priority status under local emergency plans in the event of power failure, petrol shortage, fire, floods or other threats to production, then it needs to be addressed.
News & Star editor Keith Sutton, who is also president of the Society of Editors, said recent events were likely to lead to a reassessment of some procedures by the new Regional Media Emergency Forum in Cumbria – one of many regional forums operating around the country.
During the floods mobile phone coverage was lost, as were domestic phones dependent on electricity.
Print journalists were also faced with problems of accessing authoritative information after emergency services used Radio Cumbria for public information broadcasts.
Ways of overcoming such problems are among the points likely to be addressed during a debriefing at the Cumbria RMEF on February 15.
SoE director Bob Satchwell said: “Keith’s experiences during the floods demonstrate the importance of regional newspapers talking to the emergency services and emergency planners in the RMEF.
“Keeping the public informed is not a task for broadcasters alone. There are lessons to be learned from Carlisle by all newspapers about their own ability to continue operating during an emergency.”
For more information about The Media Emergency Forum and RMEF’s, visit www.ukresilience.info