Emergency Communications – The Training

I’ve never been all that great with technology.  I once had an IT person tell me I should not be allowed near computers after I had just handed in my third laptop in two months for repair.  It never bothered me because as a writer, all I really need is pen and paper.  As an emergency communicator however I am going to need to be a photographer, videographer, interpreter, interviewer, social media expert, information manager, media spokesperson and writer.  In other words I need to start learning how to do stuff with thing-a-ma-bobs and what-ya-ma-call-its.

As part of the World Vision emergency communications training we’d been instructed to bring audio, video and camera equipment as well as laptop, mobile phones, satellite phones and B-Gans (remote satellite thingy).  This required a bag all of its own plus extra space in my regular suitcase.  Add to that the usual first aid kit, gastro kit, mosquito nets, and survival essentials and suddenly my usual small wheely case and shoulder bag was replaced by a larger wheely case, a large specialised equipment back pack and an over extended shoulder bag.  I have NEVER travelled with so much before and still had nothing to wear.

Having lugged all of this stuff up and down numerous flights of stairs, through customs and on planes I was determined to make use of it all, even though I really have no idea how to use a video camera and only slightly more of an idea on how to take good photos.

We were tested with a mini simulation on day two. We had to produce a video of at least 2 minutes, have three photos with captions, a social media plan, and interview notes.  We were given three hours.   Easy.   We brainstormed enthusiastically over a range of crazy ideas including the idea of using an ancient oak tree as a symbol for climate change.  Then we realised that no one in the group was 100% sure what an oak tree looked like.  In the end we decided to be extremely clever and make a story about finding a story, David Atennborough style.  Our filming was Oscar worthy. Oscar, our video guy was great and our acting was superbly overdone.  In fact everything worked really well until it came time to download and edit.

We couldn’t connect.  We tried multiple cords, different card readers, and advise from multiple experts.  You know you need help when the four video guys in the room look pensive and then walk away saying they aren’t familiar with that kind of video camera.  Luckily we had been using an iPhone to capture behind the scenes footage for our social media, and with some carefully placed images and re-scripted sound recordings we were able to piece together a story.  Lesson of the day – always have a back up and yes iPhones are that good.  Sub lesson of the day, don’t take equipment with you unless you 100% know how to use it and keep it as simple as you possibly can.

I have made a lot of mistakes during the training and with each mistake I oddly start to feel a little more confident. Listening to the trainers recount their rookie mistakes helps you to realise you have to find your own way of doing things.

I am now waiting for the connecting flight that will take me to Senegal in West Africa.  I’m going to visit areas affected by the current food crisis due to poor rains,  poor crops and increasing food prices.  I’m not sure what I am going to see or what stories I will find.  I am sure that I will stick with my trusty Canon 7D and G12 cameras, completely ignore the “fancy” video camera and make sure my iPhone is ready to save to the day.

For a mere 14kgs I can video, record sound, and take photos

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