MSRC survey finds stations lacking in disaster recovery readiness, planning

A new survey finds stations and cable operators unprepared for disaster recovery.
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A surprisingly low number of radio, television and cable operators have written plans on how to recover from a disaster and of those with plans very few have actually rehearsed them, according to a recent survey by Communications Infrastructure Security, Access and Restoration Working Group of the Media Security and Reliability Council (MSRC).

The survey found that about 15 percent of radio, 17 percent of television and 21 percent of cable operators have disaster recovery plans. Most of those plans, however, cover events such as the loss of a tower and not recovery from a larger disaster such as market-wide terrorist activity.

Fewer than half of the respondents with a plan have updated their plan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. Of those with plans, seven percent of radio, 17 percent of television and 58 percent of cable operators have rehearsed their plans. The survey also found that seven percent of radio, 13 percent of television and 11 percent of cable operators have reciprocity agreements to help each other and share facilities in time of disaster.

“Overall, there’s a lot of work to be done in this area,” working group chairman Bruce Allan, CEO of Harris Broadcast, said in summing up the findings.

The survey, designed to assess the existing status of security at broadcast stations, redundancy of capabilities and planning for disasters, was conducted with the help of various trade organizations. The results were presented at the Nov. 6 MSRC meeting in Washington D.C. The survey’s response rate was about 20 percent.

According to Allan, when the results are viewed from a market perspective, the situation may not be as dire. “If you start looking at them in an existing market, you have the fabric to weave together a very robust backup system if we can really get the people to use all (of) the backup in a given market,” Allan said.

While thanking those on the MSRC for their hard work, Commission Chairman Michael Powell admonished the industry to address disaster recovery. “If you have a disaster recovery plan and you don’t have a rehearsal,” he said, “you don’t have a disaster recovery plan. You just think you do."

“You have nothing," Powell continued. "Because I guarantee you it will not work if you have never asked your employees to practice it. So that’s one thing right now people need. If you have one and you haven’t exercised it, it seems to me that you are really derelict with respect to what you think you have and it’s false comfort to have a plan.”

For more information, please visit and view the streaming media video of the Nov. 6 MSRC meeting.

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