A letter from Kimberly.........Aug 2000

Members of the Great Plains Exchange -

    How sorry I am that I cannot be with you today...but I certainly appreciate the opportunity to share a little of my story with you.  My name is Kimberly Arms and I was a reporter for WOI -TV5, the ABC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa when I was involved in a Live truck accident on September 3, 1997.  My colleague was doing a report on church vandalism and I was along to help him set up for his story when the accident occurred. I am fortunate to not remember anything about the accident, as I would not want to replay it over in my mind, but what I understand is, my colleague accidentally raised the mast into Live wires and there was some sort of explosion.  Witnesses have said that I ran to see what was going on and I was injured as well. Injured is putting it mildly.  When the first paramedics arrived on the scene
they took one look at me and decided to treat David first...they thought I would not survive.  In September it will be three years, I have had well over twenty surgeries and they continue still...and I am one of the lucky ones.  I am still alive to be talking about it.  I tell you this not as a personal sob
story, but rather, what I hope will be a reality check.  WE WORK IN A DANGEROUS ENVIRONMENT EVERY DAY, but these accidents can be prevented!!!

    I hope that in some small way my story will encourage you to take a look at your own stations, your own colleagues and your own training and do three things.  Three things that we do every day in this business...INVESTIGATE, EDUCATE, and MANDATE CHANGE!  We work in a field where everything we do in news involves investigation...seeking out truth from all sides and ultimately sharing that truth for the greater good of our communities.  Wouldn't it be wise to investigate our personal situations...ask yourself these questions...what has been happening in our industry regarding safety?  What are my station's policies toward training safety in Live truck applications? Is that training happening in an ongoing and conclusive manner?  What safety protections does the equipment our station owns offer?  Are there other stations that are doing it better...other stations that can model strong safety training?  What is the attitude toward safety training at the station I work at...is it a priority or something brushed aside in favor of deadlines and avoiding overtime?  INVESTIGATE what's happening in your immediate surroundings every day.

    I encourage you to EDUCATE yourselves and those around you.  Every one of us has a responsibility to educate ourselves on a continual basis about what's going on the news business. This statement exempts no one!!! Manufacturers of Live truck equipment have a responsibility to research and develop the latest technology available to make their products as safe as they can be.  Owners and GM's have a responsibility to provide their stations with the best safety equipment and to ensure that their stations have the tools to train and operate them.  News Directors and Engineers have a responsibility to provide full and complete training on a consistent basis. And Reporters and Photographers have a responsibility to take that training seriously and pass it along to coworkers.  We have a responsibility to the public at large to know the dangers and protect not only ourselves but the community.  And education does not equate to a single training session the first day of the first job you'll ever get in broadcast journalism... it should begin there and remain consistent until the last day of your last job in this business.

    EDUCATE yourself on what's available.  Did you know that certain kinds of insulation can prevent these accidents?  Did you know that Safety Warning Devices exist?  They sound an audible alarm and physically shut down the mast when they sense an electrical field too close.  Did you know that many Live
truck manufacturers offer these devices as a delete item on their trucks...meaning if the stations don't want to pay for them, they can opt not to?  Do you know how many people have been injured or killed in these accidents in the last twenty years?  EDUCATE yourselves about these issues and if you find something that doesn't seem quite right...

    MANDATE CHANGE.  Require that your stations equip your new Live trucks with Safety Warning Devices and require that they retrofit existing trucks. Demand that you are trained effectively and completely before you ever have to encounter a Live truck in any capacity.  Better yet, stations, employ
someone whose sole responsibility is to run that Live truck...from driving to a site to tearing down after a shoot.  Demand that your training be ongoing...I'm not talking about a fifteen minute talk about the dangers of Live trucks and then a requirement to sign a piece of paper that says you've been trained... that's not training, that's liability control.  How many engineers would feel comfortable doing a Live shot or anchoring a newscast after a fifteen minute talk through?  There are some great materials out
there that require extensive training and testing before anyone is allowed to use the equipment...find those programs and use them! 

    Each one of us is responsible for playing a role in our own safety and that of those around us.  I encourage you...ask the questions now...find solutions now.  Take the time now for your family, for your colleagues, for yourself, because you don't get the time back when your facing three to five
years of surgery and a lifetime of change. Trust that this is more important than any exclusive you could ever get, an interview you could set up and any story you could ever air...INVESTIGATE, EDUCATE, and MANDATE CHANGE...it could save your life!!!!

    Thanks for your time.  Sincerely, Kimberly Arms