And not just weather is being addressed at the educational levels. Preparations for natural disasters, protests and COVID-19 safety lectures and courses are on the radar of many photojournalism schools, including, and certainly not limited to, University of Nevada, Reno, San Francisco State University, Indiana University, University of Oregon, University of Georgia, University of California San Diego and University of Minnesota. Heading into internships and jobs, students have a better understanding of all-around safety precautions.
Chris Post, an Emmy-nominated TV news photojournalist in the Philadelphia media market, worked in emergency services prior to becoming a journalist. Post, also the NPPA chair for Safety & Security Task Force, has been deployed to countless hurricanes as a photojournalist, as well as with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He carries more noncamera gear than camera gear in his car to a severe weather event. These items include, but are not limited to, a chainsaw, extra gasoline, cans of Fix-a-Flat, spare water and a first aid kit.
According to Post, “Natural disasters are the No. 1 hazard in the U.S.”
Post said that several elements of weather must be considered when documenting stories involving inclement weather: temperature, wind, stability of the atmosphere, relative humidity, precipitation and cloud development. He uses the RadarScope app, and he encourages journalists to use a local weather radar app and set it to receive warnings. He also highly recommends taking SkyWarn courses, which teach things such as the basics of thunderstorm development, fundamentals of storm structure and basic severe weather safety.
But, Post added, weather awareness isn’t limited to covering severe events, and he used sports photography as an example. Post said that when covering a road rally event or a golf tournament, to be properly prepared, a photojournalist needs to know in advance what the weather will do. Will you need a hat, sunscreen, rain gear, an extra layer of clothing, protection for your gear? If lightning is predicted, do you have an escape plan?
“Dress for what’s coming up, not what you see,” Post said. When he talks to journalists, he teaches them to crawl, walk, run. He encourages journalists to listen: Are flags flapping around? And look up: Is the sky changing color? “What you don’t know now can get you killed. Read the weather, look at your apps, use all those tools to make smart decisions, and then plan accordingly.”
Tracy Barbutes (@tracybarbutes) is a visual journalist and writer based near Yosemite National Park, California. She can be reached at [email protected]. She has been an NPPA member since 2011.
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