Are Your People Safe?




by Paul S. Rotella


August 27th, 2015

In light of the tragic shooting in Roanoke yesterday, it’s important to remember to be vigilant and take precautions against attacks of all kinds. Broadcasters make very attractive targets for terrorists and others who want to make a statement. Unfortunately, these days every station should be on alert  regarding the unhappy prospect of an attack on a reporter or a station and all stations should take the appropriate precautions like making sure station doors are locked and alarm systems are not only installed, but secure and within reach of staff at various locations within the building.  This includes “panic buttons” and redundant security systems.

Yesterday’s catastrophe will long be remembered as to the vulnerability of broadcasters, who are often alone or with a  technical staff member in dangerous situations, covering breaking stories like the riots in Baltimore or just trying to help the local economy with an interview of a Chamber of Commence official. It’s not just super storms we need to worry about anymore. But today’s attack reminds us not only of our mortality but of the unexpected situations we may confront just be being in the public’s eye. We can only hope that this horrific incident does not lead to copy-cat situations putting our broadcasters in more danger.

As you may remember, the FBI alerted us last fall that broadcasters and on-air personalities may be targets for terroristic threats and/or acts.

This warning has been renewed given our elevated security posture and intelligence suggesting that “lone-wolf” agents may target broadcast facilities and on-air personalities for heightened publicity and media exposure, and you should take immediate precautions at your station to help insure the safety and security of your staff, facilities and continuity of your operations.

Stations should review alarm and surveillance systems. Properly lit and monitored entrances and enhanced access restrictions are also recommended. For stations with overnight live operations and staff changes, this is an imperative, and well lit and monitored parking areas and walkways should be insisted upon with landlords or in your basic maintenance plan. And include your transmitter sites and back up systems in your precautionary review.

If you have emergency or “panic” button accessories on your security systems, make sure that your staff is well trained in their location(s) and use. Emergency phone numbers should be posted in all offices and studios.  You should also consider having extra panic buttons given to staff and on-air personalities who change shifts during nighttime hours, as well. Of course, report any suspicious activity to law enforcement promptly and advise staff to remain aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity. In this environment, no amount of preparation and prudent precaution is too much.

Be prepared for anything that would call for your station to ramp up programing and schedules due to a catastrophe or other circumstance like severe weather, riots or social unrest,  which might make it necessary to continuously be on-the-air with limited shift changes providing audiences with news and information they will need in such an emergency. That means wise storage of food and water, and other provisions, should it become necessary for station personnel to be confined to their studios for an extended period of time.

Of course, making sure all transmitters, back up equipment, generators, fuel sources, batteries, ect. are regularly  inspected and maintained at their absolute peak performance is crucial. The NJBA reminds its members (and all broadcasters) that: This planning is especially wise as Hurricane Season begins and the possibility of inclement weather gets higher. With riots, cyber, bio, grid, infrastructure and terror threats being issued almost on an daily basis recently, it is only prudent that broadcasters be prepared for anything! But to be brutally murdered while doing an interview is nothing we could have ever been prepared for….


Paul Rotella is the President and CEO of The New Jersey Broadcasters Association and can be reached atpr******@nj**.com or (609) 860-0111



  1. You’re only as safe as your co-workers allow you to be. I have worked at stations where you needed a pass-card to access the elevator and the door to the on-air block. Somehow, non-employees made it onto the operations floor unaccompanied because they were friends with one of the employees, whether they were operators or on-air talent. Perhaps they weren’t deadly but these days, who knows?


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