Monday, November 12, 2007

Emergency Communications PSA for the Media

In the past here at Jiblog, I've tried to inform people that they should not call their local police dispatch office to see why the power is off, if there is severe weather, and to see what time the local parade starts. The reason you shouldn't call your local police dispatch for these and other petty reasons is because by doing so you are tying up a limited resource that isn't going to answer your question, anyway. Tonight, I have a new PSA, but this one isn't for the general public. It's for people who really should know better. It's for the media.

Some emergency communications centers have several people that work the phones and the radio. Big cities and counties that dispatch for towns and small cities are examples. Most small cities and towns are operating with a single dispatcher much of the time, though. In either situation, however, the law enforcement department in question is trying to get the most out of as few people as possible for the work load available. When there is an emergency, these dispatchers DO NOT NEED TO HEAR FROM THE MEDIA. There's an old saying that goes a little something like this: If you are not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. When you folks in the media call a dispatch center during an emergency, you are part of the problem. That emergency communications center is trying to stay on top of the emergency at hand while still handling other problems that may be occurring in the community. When five, ten, fifteen media outlets or more are calling them for information, sometimes rudely, that they are not authorized to give out anyway, they are prevented from doing their jobs, and that can make a difference between life and death. And if you superstars in the media are able to jostle some information from them, chances are you are putting their jobs at risk for your own minimal personal gain. For that, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Here's a tip for you in the media tasked with getting information when an emergency is taking place: Develop sources in as many communities as possible. Even better, get your ass out of your desk or out of bed and get on the scene. But for our communities' sakes, leave the emergency communication centers alone. Your need for a story isn't an emergency, no matter how self centered a reporter you are.

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