Broadcasters and Hurricane Michael

Broadcast outlets in the Pan Handle no doubt saved lives during Hurricane Michael.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association have created this video as part of a series that shows "the indispensable role that local radio and television broadcasters serve as “first informers” during times of emergency."

Check out the full blog entry here on the NAB website.

 

On a personal note I'd like to tell you a story about our hurricane preparation before Michael came ashore.

The weekend before, when Michael was an unorganized blob starting to form, we discussed our gameplan. Fortunately, we've been through this together a few times with and the basics are ingrained. We include additional weather reports on the air, and set up our iHeartRadio Operation Stormwatch page to receive new content. We stock up on food, water, fuel... the things we'll need for a few days at the station if it comes to that. The day before we bring our personal supplies, air mattresses, etc to the radio station where we might end up staying for a while. I ended up living in my office for two weeks, though some were able to return home in a couple days. Some had no home to return to.

The Panhandle was getting ready for a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. Then the morning before landfall it's looking like a Cat 3.Ok, that's going to be tough, but we're still ready. Tuesday night, before hurricane Michael made landfall, we get are getting ready to go to bed after a long day of preparations. Around 10PM we get a call from a superior outside the building. It's going to be a Category 4. We're advised to evacuate for our own safety. And at that hour, there was still time to do so. In the building we had 6 folks on the programming side that you may have gotten to know on the air over the next couple of weeks. Dr. Shane, Tess, Paco, Big Boi, John (myself) and serving behind the scenes, Dan. With us were our Chief Engineer and our General Manager Darrell. There were also families hunkered down in the building with us, including spouses, children and even pets. A couple dozen people together.

The 8 employees of iHeartRadio Panama City decided we would discuss evacuating with our spouses and loved ones. We even discussed possible routes and family outside the area to shelter with, offering to house coworkers and their families as well. We would reconvene in an hour to share our decisions.

At 11PM, the night before Hurricane Michael devastated our beautiful corner of the world, 8 iHeartRadio employees decided to stay. Stay to keep our neighbors informed. Stay to help the place we call home survive a full strength Category 4 hurricane. Stay through the hours of beating winds, rain and destruction. Stay through losing part of the roof at the radio stations, and through the hurricane destroying our STL tower that was keeping us on the air. Stay through the days and weeks of no power, non potable water, digging out of our buildings wondering how our houses, our neighbors and our listeners were. Stay because it's our job, our duty and the right thing to do for our community.

I am so terribly proud of the iHeartRadio team for all choosing to stay. I can never tell this story without getting choked up. But when you think about it, about the necessity of Radio during an event like Hurricane Michael, how could we not stay? I was brought to tears more than once, whether it was inquiries from our HR department regarding our well being, and helping us secure payroll checks and medication, or our listeners supplying us with a steady flow of information about relief, or personal stories of tragedy. The support we received from other iHeartRadio markets that helped us broadcast during our wall to wall coverage for 10 days, getting us back on air and keeping us there, relief drives they conducted to get donated supplies for our community, or covering on-air shifts once regular programming resumed as local staff we sought to deal with our own issues... cleanup, insurance companies, getting roofs tarped before the next rain... People helping people, across the panhandle and across the country.

Over the course of the next days and weeks we were directing emergency workers and volunteers to neighborhoods and houses that needed help. We agonized with our community over what we lost. We struggled together to find food, gas, ice and more. We operated on next to no sleep, we cheered over the small victories as individual stores and restaurants opened. We redefined what clean meant. Or acceptable living conditions were. We were ecstatic over the bigger vidtories as water and power returned, or Halloween happened for kids in our community. Neighbors met neighbors for the first time, despite living next to each other for years. Our family grew bigger, closer.

So, may it be a very long time until we're in the same position again.

And should it happen again, evacuate yourselves for your own safety.

But should you stay, we'll be here, helping to keep our community safe, informed, and entertained.

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