First On Scene
Media act as critical link in disaster response

HOLLY HILDRETH WITH BONNIE STEWART

Media coverage is critical for getting help to the people who need it in a disaster, said Chris Dale, Red Cross Chapter Solutions Manager for Northern West Virginia.

Whether reacting to a single family crisis or Katrina-sized destruction, the American Red Cross relies on the media to tell it when a disaster is on the way, Dale said.

Predictions of disaster send the Red Cross into action. The group, through press releases and e-mail, tells media outlets in the affected area where people can go for help, Dale said. And the media tell the public.

The media also broadcast governmental advisories asking residents to leave the area, Dale said.

Following a disaster, journalists continue to keep the public updated about the magnitude of the disaster.

That coverage allows people to see the needs of disaster victims and, through donations, helps agencies raise the money they need to deliver aid, Dale said.

In the case of Katrina, journalists showed the public what was happening along the Gulf Coast, and the American people emptied their pockets, he said.

By early 2006 people had donated or pledged more than $2 billion to the American Red Cross to help victims of hurricane Katrina, Wilma and Rita, according to the organizations Web site www.redcross.org.