Covering Recovery: The Challenges of Preparing for Major Disasters

The seemingly increased prevalence of catastrophic events, from natural disasters, biological threats, large-scale industrial accidents to infrastructure failure and terrorism, has created many challenges for journalists. Beyond the obvious stories focused on the immediate drama of a massive storm, the threat of Zika virus or the fatalities of a mass shooting, there are deeper issues that need to be explored by the press.These are the investigative reports that will help policy makers and the public understand critical underlying factors, clarifying what happened and what should be done in the future.

Currently, too many questions go unanswered ... even unasked. Perhaps during the critical elections of 2016, some of these issues should be addressed by candidates running for public office.

Why is optimal preparedness – if there is such a state – so difficult to reach? Why are we doing such a poor job of ensuring that vulnerable populations are protected in catastrophic events? Why, many years after 9/11, is there still evidence of insufficient coordination among and between local, state and federal agencies – as well as with voluntary and private sector entities? Are we providing the resources and leadership necessary to protect from disasters and to minimize their impacts?

As Dr. Redlener was unable to attend #IRE16 in person this year, he recorded a special message for all the attendees of the 2016 Investigative Reporters and Editors conference and in particular for the panel hosted by the Dart Center, Columbia University. This content is particularly pertinent for all journalists with an interest in covering topics of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and addresses seven critical topics and inherent challenges of disaster journalism. Accompanying Tipsheet: Event Homepage: