WCVB-TV microwave technician Scott Nadeau prepares before striking out with his foot-mobile ENG rover team outside the Fleet Center. In the red bag is a microwave transmitter, and in the blue backpack are spare batteries, communications gear and personal safety equipment.
To deal with possible terrorist threats, WCVB-TV, set up a private, emergency communication and transportation system, and equipped crews in field with “personal safety” equipment while covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“The word from on high was that there was a terrorist threat on Saturday,” said WCVB-TV’s chief engineer Rick Zach. “We had no idea of what the threat was but the absolute mandate from the station was that your personal safety came first.”
During pre-convention planning, the station laid the groundwork for emergency communication and transportation, and with the warning came added urgency to be able to communicate with and possibly evacuate the 125 people from the station credentialed to cover the event.
“If there was a need for an evacuation, all of our staff was instructed to switch off the broadcast frequency and switch over to the emergency frequency,” he said. At that point, Boston-market station’s crews would be instructed on where to rendezvous with vans to be transported to safety.
Station rover crews, consisting of a reporter, a cameraman and a microwave technician, were sent into potential hot spots like specially set-aside demonstration areas where ENG vans were not allowed.
WCVB-TV rover team members include microwave technician Scott Nadeau, reporter Kelly Tuthill and videographer Steve Menard.
Besides a camera and mic, the crew carried a portable microwave antenna and two bags. In the red bag was a Strata TXU microwave transmitter from MRC. In the blue backpack were spare batteries, communications equipment and personal safety items.
While Zach didn’t identify the specific personal safety gear, he did say it was intended to protect crews from possibly dangerous angry mobs being contained by police.
Last week's Democratic National Convention was a relatively peaceful affair. Large groups of demonstrators did not materialize and protestors who did were relatively well-behaved. Nor did a terrorist incident occur.
Regardless, preparation for the real possibility of such incidents demonstrates the changed environment of covering high-profile political events since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Zach has put together several Web pages with images and commentary about covering this year’s Democratic convention.