Hate Risk Assessments? Then Work On Your Deployment Plan

Risk Assessment

Hate Risk Assessments? Then Work On Your Deployment Plan

Hate Risk Assessments?
Then Work On Your Deployment Plan

by Patrick Howse – Safety Adviser

When preparing for a dangerous trip, it’s easy to overlook certain details of your deployment plan. Risk assessments can also feel like a pain in the neck – surely we can do without covering the smaller stuff? But preparing for every eventuality could be what saves your life, as former BBC field producer Patrick Howse discovered when his Baghdad workstation was blasted with a rocket. Click below to read what Patrick learned from this hair-raising experience.

I have a confession. When I was a BBC News-gathering field producer, I didn’t much like Risk Assessments. But in my defence, much of the problem comes down to presentation. As a hard-working and stressed news journalist, I felt Risk Assessments were just another bit of BBC bureaucracy that I was being expected to wade through. If, on the other hand, I had been asked to work on a Deployment Plan, I’d have felt far more positive. There’s actually quite a lot in a name – but they are exactly the same thing.

As a matter of routine, deploying journalists will have a think about the kit they would need to do their job, which in the case of broadcast teams would include things like camera, radio mic, BGAN, and so forth. But they should widen this to look at the risks they might face, the mitigation measures that could be put in place,  and – crucially –  what to do if the worst were to happen.

So if, for example, you are deploying to a Middle Eastern conflict zone, you would be looking at the risk of attack by bomb and bullet. Your mitigations might include taking body armour, making sure the whole team has been on a Hostile Environments course, and taking a first aid kit.

But the third stage of the process is just as important – what if the worst were to happen? The time to be thinking about how to get to the nearest emergency hospital is not when a member of your team has a catastrophic bleed. You need to have thought about this before you go, got the latest information about the area’s health care facilities, and have an evacuation plan.

And do you have the right equipment – do you have a trauma kit that includes tourniquets, blast bandages, and a chest seal?

Everything needs to be looked at, from the sorts of documents you might need – passport, visas, press accreditation, vaccination certificates – to water filters or purification tablets, to clothing.

You’ll need a good communications plan – will someone know where you’re going, and will they know what to do if something goes wrong?

And remember, one of the most important – if not THE most important – things to have thought about in advance is how you are going to get around.

Hostile Environment Training places a lot of emphasis on bombs and bullets – but actually the biggest cause of death for journalists on assignment since the end of the Second World War is road traffic accidents. The combination of the state of the local roads, your driver, and his vehicle are vital to the success of your deployment, and to your well being.

Time spent preparing and planning is never wasted. Of course things may look very different on the ground when you get there – but if you are properly prepared, you’ll be able to react to those changed circumstances.

Take the time, before you leave for your assignment, to look at your goals, at your kit and equipment, your training, and your documentation; and have a plan for when things go wrong, because it could save you a lot of time and trouble later.

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Zoe Compton