Samoa’s broadcasters get a helping hand

  • September 17, 2014
  • Karen Stephens

I recently returned from helping Samoa’s national TV and radio broadcasters update their disaster resilience capability.

This was a fabulous experience and came about after Kestrel was awarded a tender, through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), to improve the disaster resilience of national broadcasters in Samoa. The initiative is to be rolled out across eight Pacific island countries and Samoa was the first.

Having worked in the Pacific from 2006-2008 assisting the Government to implement disaster management legislation, and a national disaster management plan, I had first-hand knowledge to apply when working with Samoa’s national broadcasters, TV1, FM89.1 and Radio 2AP.

The broadcasters had basic plans which had not been reviewed since 2008 and staff were unfamiliar with their responsibilities or the actions they would need to take. However, as there had been two significant disasters (2009 Tsunami and Cyclone Evan in 2012) there was recognition of the need for planning to be completed and great enthusiasm from management and their teams.

At the start of the project Ms Filomena Nelson, Assistant CEO of the Disaster Management Office of Samoa said in a media release: “Overall the aim for this plan is so that our broadcasters can continue to share timely information to our communities, in particular during times of emergencies so our communities can prepare and respond accordingly,”

The three broadcasters are located on the Mulinuu peninsular in Apia and their buildings are within 50 metres of the ocean. This location puts them at high risk from tsunami and flooding due to cyclone or other weather related events. Because of this they need to have a well-established alternate location so they can broadcast warnings and other information during a disaster.

Two workshops were held which helped to define what the broadcasters needed in their plans and how they co-ordinated warnings and other information with the key agencies (Samoa MetService and the Disaster Management Office).

A key issue identified was that the MetService information was too technical and broadcasters had to try and translate it into something the community would understand and know what to do with. Future messages will be written by MetService with the community in mind to ensure there is no confusion.

Following the workshops I worked with the broadcasters to construct their response plans and a quick reference checklist/flipchart.

At the time I was developing the plans, New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management (MCDEM) was assisting Samoa’s Disaster Management Office in the implementation of a siren warning system. This required co-ordination with the broadcasters to provide information when the sirens were activated. Funding for this was provided through the New Zealand Government following the 2010 tsunami. It was a great opportunity to work collegially with MCDEM to improve the resilience of Samoa and its communities.

At the end of the final workshop I was interviewed by the broadcasters’ news programmes, unfortunately I left that evening before it was televised but hopefully the message came across that Samoa has an increased resilience when it comes to getting critical messages to the community.