Viewers turn to public television for education and entertainment but, it might surprise you to know that, in many communities, audiences also rely on public media for important lessons in public and personal safety.
June is both National Safety Month and National Internet Safety Month, making it the ideal time to acknowledge the work public television stations are doing to help protect viewers, both in their communities and online.
In Cocoa, Fla., WBCC-TV has formed a unique partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to produce a community-focused program, Be Safe. Each week, the show features a different public safety topic and provides viewers with valuable information on how to protect themselves, their families and their property.
Wayne Ivey, FDLE’s resident agent in charge and the show’s host, brings more than 30 years of experience in investigating, solving and preventing crimes to Be Safe.
After two seasons, the program has been making a difference in unexpected ways. In response to one program on identity theft, Mr. Ivey said “Victims don’t often report identity-theft crimes. But in the local region, reporting has gone up. We credit that rise to programs like Be Safe, which is making people more aware that if they become a victim of identity theft, they’ve got to report it to local law-enforcement and to the Federal Trade Commission because that is how we know the depth of the problem.”
Be Safe also covers other topics including child safety, safety of elders and teen driving dangers.
On the other side of the country, the Utah Education Network (UEN) has, over the last six years, provided in-person internet safety training to nearly 90,000 teachers, parents and children through its NetSafe Utah program.
Public awareness of the risks and dangers of Internet predators on children has been enormously heightened by recent incidents and crimes reported in the media. More children of all ages and their parents are beginning to recognize the need to be careful online, but youth are still placing themselves in vulnerable positions every day. This is of particular concern in Utah, which ranks number one in the nation for home computer use, fifth highest in the nation for Internet use in the home, and has the highest population of children of any state in the nation (Huntsman, 2005).
UEN and its partners in the initiative felt they had an obligation to Utah families, and families nationwide, to be a leader in online safety education.
The NetSafe initiative includes face-to-face training for parents and teachers, as well as online resources, such as 18 short, animated videos that explain critical safety issues for youth and adults. To expand the reach of its internet safety message, UEN has translated the videos from English into 10 additional languages: Arabic, Bosnian, Burmese, Chinese, Korean, Navajo, Somali, Spanish, Tongan and Vietnamese.
NetSafe Utah was honored with a first place award for community outreach from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA). Judges cited the initiative’s “bilingual support of Spanish and English, its partnerships with other organizations, and the way it involved children, parents, and grandparents in fostering safer online experiences.”
WBCC and UEN are just two of the many stations nationwide that exemplify public media’s commitment to provide communities with important safety and emergency information.
Last year, Marfa Public Radio (Marfa, Texas) played a vital role in broadcasting about evacuations, road closures and weather conditions during the largest wildfire in the state’s history.
WGBH (Boston), Vegas PBS (KLVX, Las Vegas), and Alabama Public Television stations WBIQ (Birmingham) and WAIQ (Montgomery) recently served as test markets for the groundbreaking Mobile Emergency Alert System (MEAS) project, which delivers multi-media alerts – video, audio, text and graphics – to mobile DTV equipped cell phones, tablets, laptops and even in-car navigation systems to avoid the potential congestion that can occur on cellular systems during an emergency.
Public media has long been an important source for listeners and viewers to obtain accurate and critical local information. These innovative initiatives, and others like them, are just some of the many ways public radio and television stations deliver value and service – for free – to their communities.