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New Emergency Kits Help VOA Reporters Cover Disasters

Lack of infrastructure no longer an insurmountable obstacle

When a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti on January 12th, 2010, VOA reporters were quickly on the scene to cover the story – but soon found that they, too, were forced to seek refuge and supplies, as well as alternative ways to get their stories out. "There was a total lack of infrastructure," recalled broadcaster Bart Childs. Working without electricity, along with the limited supplies of food and water, tested the skills and ingenuity of the production teams.

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That experience prompted Childs and VOA colleagues to devise new reporter emergency kits for all VOA reporters in the field. They include everything from practical tools, such as first aid kits, tents, and small cook stoves, to technical devices intended to enhance the quality of news clips and enable reporters to send them out. Reporters are now able to shoot, edit, and post stories on site and send them out directly to VOA for air.

"While in Haiti, the reporters' experience was enhanced, in that they could do their work knowing it could be produced and distributed, and that they had food and lodging," explained Childs.

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A crucial part of the kits is the BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) box, which is essentially a self-contained Satelite uplink providing enough bandwidth for live video Streaming, ftp (file transfer protocol and phone service. Costing several thousand dollars each, the devices allow journalists to broadcast reports from remote locations via the Internet. Without it, VOA's reporters would not have been able to get their stories out to the audience.

by Marisa Harriston