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Q&A: Hurricane reporters plan for safe accommodations

Safe spot key in storm reporting

When hurricanes threaten the United States, reporters rush to the area where the hurricane is expected to hit. Where do they stay during the storm? Do they pick a hotel or move away quickly until the storm is over?

"The St. Petersburg Times always tries to get our reporters and photographers in safe locations before a hurricane hits," says Tom Scherberger, senior editor for breaking news and the newspaper's and Web site's coordinator of hurricane coverage. "Generally that's a sturdy hotel away from an evacuation zone but close enough to allow us to cover the aftermath of a storm. But sometimes that's not possible. Hotels fill up quickly with evacuees and there's often no room at the inn, and sometimes they simply aren't safe enough.

"So our journalists have slept on the floor of a local Emergency Operations Center, in the back of their SUVs, at a fire station, in an RV that we moved into an area once the storm passed or, in the case of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in a spare room of someone who did not evacuate. This is rugged work, and not for the faint of heart, but reporters and photographers will do what it takes to cover a hurricane."

Tattoos usually safe in MRI

Many years ago when Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines came into use I read an article stating that a person with a tattoo would never be able to have this diagnostic test because of the lead in the ink used. Is this still true?

Generally, it's safe for the growing number of people with tattoos to have MRIs, according to Dr. Lawrence E. Gipson, writing on He said you do have to be careful because there have been reports of burns in tattooed areas, particularly in dark black tattoos.

"Some researchers suspect that the burns are related to the iron oxide in dark tattoo ink," Gipson writes. "Iron oxide is potentially magnetic. It also conducts electricity. If the iron oxide is heated during an MRI, the affected area may be burned."

He suggests letting your doctor know about your tattoos if he or she orders an MRI for you. Still, he says, the benefits will likely outweigh the risk of problems. "To reduce the possibility of burning, your doctor may recommend placing ice packs or cool compresses over your tattoos during the MRI," Gipson writes.

A 2008 survey by Harris Interactive indicated that 14 percent of all adults in the United States have a tattoo. The 25 to 29 age group had the highest rate at 32 percent.

An earlier survey, in 2006 by the Pew Research Center, pegged 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 with tattoos, 40 percent of those 26 to 40 and 10 percent of those 41 to 64.

Q&A: Hurricane reporters plan for safe accommodations 07/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 10:59pm]
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