In Baltimore today, about 120 area journalists, government officials, business executives and scientists faced the following [mock tabletop] situation:
A major explosion at City Hall; anotherÂ explosion at Baltimore’s World Trade Center; gunmen firing upon those on at the two sites; their actions are obviously being coordinated using complex communications partly utilizing info/images broadcast by the media; white powder found on one of the gunman who is killed my police; field test for bio agents inconclusive; responders in HAZMAT broadcast live;Â Communication is lost from a Coast Guard boat intercepting a suspicious vessel; numerous other smaller explosions throughout the city; and the terrorists using new media to increase the terror.
The scenario is the centerpiece of the latest workshop in the Â “News & Terrorism: Communicating In A Crisis” program created in 2004 byÂ the National Academies of Sciences along with the Radio Television News Directors Association and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Baltimore event is theÂ 17th in the series which has been held in sites around the U.S. Each day-long seminar brings together local media, public officials, public information officers, business leaders, scientists, and technical experts to work through the scenario customized for each community. The workshops also provide useful scientific information, advice on protective measures and disaster planning guidance. The moderator was former CNN anchor Aaron Brown. A report on the day is on the RTNDA website.
Among the “News & Terrorism” program’s goals are: fostering a better understanding of how each group responds to a crisis;Â learning each others needs, requirements, and obligations;Â determining the preferred means for communicating in a crisis;Â providing participants with additional contact information and networking opportunities to enhance both news coverage and a specific understanding of these situations.
I participated in one of the first “News And Terrorism” workshops held in Philadelphia in 2004 and afterwards did a story about the program for National Public Radio’s “On The Media” show.Â The workshops were originally developed by the National Academy of Engineering’s Randy Atkins along with the RTNDA’SÂ Barbara Cochran. (By the way, the RTNDA announced yesterday that it will be changing its name to the Radio Television Digital News Association or RTDNA.