Covering natural disasters
Keep this story pack handy for when a natural disaster threatens your area. Included are resources to assist in the coverage of all stages of the storm event, as well as stories and tipsheets about storms and other natural disasters and databases to help you cover all the details.
Weathering the Storm
Learn how to bolster the traditional weather story with additional data.
Broadcast: After Breaking News, What's Next?
This tipsheet is comprised of many useful web links covering topics of aviation accidents, automobiles and trucks, political campaign data, federal spending, U.S. court system, crime, business records, weather and more.
Investigating Unlikely Disasters:Post-Disaster Approaches
Many natural disasters happen so rarely that we forget what to do when one strikes. Donn gives great tips on what and how to investigate the post-disaster story.
Be Prepared, Before the Storm Hits (PowerPoint)
Start planning before the storm hits. Stock and Armendariz provide this useful PowerPoint on what to do before it's too late.
Investigating After Weather Disaster
Finley, winner of Breaking News Investigation category-IRE 2011, describes in detail what to do before, during, and after the weather strikes.
Measuring risk: From earthquakes to nuclear plants, how to investigate community preparedness
Get tips on how to investigate community preparedness. Johnson offers lessons learned from "On Shaky Ground," a 19-month investigation of the seismic safety of California's schools.
Covering Natural Disasters
Covering natural disasters can be an overwhelming task, use these tips from McClure, Chief Environmental Correspondent at InvestigateWest. He provides advice for before the weather starts.
Children and Trauma: Interviewing Tips
Black provides interview guidelines for reporters interviewing children who have been through traumatic events. She provides general guidelines, as well as details for interviews at the scene of a crime or disaster; covers interview pointers for past traumas, too. (Available in English and Spanish.)
Working the Edges
This tipsheet addresses being ready to cover disasters - beginning with a "spot-news" checklist, and recommendations for handling coverage once a disaster happens.
Data Before and After a Disaster
Heath lists and describes different federal programs that provide financial assistance after a natural disaster. He discusses where to get records of each program's spending, and how to best incorporate that information into a CAR story. Heath also describes the programs used by federal agencies to run simulations and assess potential damage; most of those programs are available for free and could be useful for reporters covering a recent disaster.
Investigating the Aftermath of Disasters
Kestin explains how she and other reporters at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel discovered and revealed $530 million in fraud and waste in FEMA disaster aid nationwide. She provides an overview of FEMA and tells reporters covering disaster stories what things they should be looking for. Kestin also provides a list of sources for these types of stories.
Resources for Covering Disasters
Nixon lists resources and databases that are helpful when covering natural disasters. The list includes four NICAR databases, such as Federal Contracts, and nine other resources, like the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
New Orleans Police
CBS News takes an in depth look at the allegations of police brutality in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Federal investigators uncovered at least three murders and filed charges against a dozen police officers. The investigation determines why and how the chaos led to the crimes.
Florida's Insurance Nightmare
Six years after eight hurricanes ripped across Florida, state residents still struggle to recover from the storms' legacy - a wrecked property insurance market. Exorbitant premiums, the highest in the world, have soured the state's struggling economy, killed real estate sales and forced families from their homes. Homeowners were told that unless they paid even more, no insurance company would take their hurricane risk. The Herald-Tribune showed that is a lie. Floridians have been lied to about why there is a crisis, where their money is going, and whether they're even protected against storm losses. Public policy has been corrupted by fiction spun by the insurance industry and its supposed regulators. Billions of dollars desperately needed for the next disaster have been siphoned offshore. And millions of homeowners are left to entrust their financial security on a system rigged to extort profit. To expose the hidden truth of Florida's insurance crisis, St. John cultivated key sources deep within every aspect of the insurance industry and sought massive amounts of financial and policy data from multiple state and national entities. When it became obvious Florida's crisis was manipulated from afar, she traveled to Bermuda and Monte Carlo to discover the hidden players truly in charge.
A Failure to Warn
The investigation shows why flood predictions for Nashville have been very inaccurate. The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service had not alerted the government or the public that water was being released into the Cumberland River. The reporter finds that the two agencies barely communicated during the floods, leading to the spread of incorrect information.
Hung Out to Dry
FEMA is currently in the “final stages of revisiting all of the flood maps throughout the country”. The investigation revealed major problems in the mapping and these mistakes could be costly to the residents in these areas. These residents living in the “flood zones” must pay flood insurance or risk losing their homes. Many of the residents believe they should be excluded from the flood area and come together to prove FEMA wrong.
Silent Sirens: Are you safe if a tornado comes?
This investigation by WSYX-TV revealed that dozens of Franklin County, Ohio tornado sirens were in disrepair due to human error. The investigation alerted area residents that the majority of the county's tornado sirens were not fully functional, some not working at all.
Reporters investigated the preparation of New York for a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Rita or Katrina. After conducting tests, the reporters found that 75 percent of the communities in their coverage zone were completely unprepared to deal with any kind of disaster.
Hurricane Katrina Reporting Package
This package of investigative stories shows why so many things went wrong during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Time staff reported on FEMA Director Mike Brown, and how his general incompetence hurt relief efforts. The package also includes a look at New Orleans three months after the disaster to see how it recovery efforts were working.
- Disaster loans from the Small Business Administration are the primary form of federal assistance for non-farm, private-sector disaster losses.For this reason, the disaster loans program is the only form of SBA assistance not limited to small businesses. Disaster loans from SBA help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations finance their rebuilding.The data identifies the borrower, the disaster, the amount and, for business borrowers, whether the loan was paid in full or deemed uncollectible.
This is the official U.S. government database of storm events around the country. Some of the events tracked are: tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms, droughts, snowstorms, flash floods, hail, wild/forest fires, temperature extremes, strong winds, fog, and avalanches.
The data is collected by more than 120 National Weather Service forecast offices, including in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. The data is archived by the National Climatic Data Center.
Fields in the database include: date and time the storm event began; event type; states and counties hit; latitude and longitude; property and crop damage; and injuries and fatalities.
Historical data is available going back to 1950, however the accuracy of the data prior to 1996 is uncertain because of the way the information was archived by NCDC.