The normal flu season may be enough to have air personalities on edge in a studio, but the Covid-19 outbreak may be taking that to a whole new level. From microphones just inches from a host’s mouth to studio boards touched by many, there’s lots of potential ways to transfer a virus. What can stations do?
We put that question to Kirk Harnack, a Senior Systems Consultant at studio equipment seller The Telos Alliance. Here 12 tips that he shared.
- Gloves Aren’t Just For Hospitals. Step into many big retail chains today and you may notice employees wearing blue gloves as a way to protect themselves from contaminated surfaces. It’s something Harnack says could work inside a radio station studio, too. “They don’t prevent you from doing your job and my experience has been good with touchscreens,” he says. “This doesn’t require you to clean everything, although that’s still a good idea. It protects you.” A box of 200 blue nitrile gloves that are latex and powder-free costs about $19 online.
- Bring your own headphones. The investment that had seemed like a luxury may now be a health safety maneuver some personalities at risk may want to consider.
- Don’t touch the mic. Even in the healthiest of times, engineers say touching the microphone is a bad move. “Some jocks just have that habit of wiggling it around while they’re clearing their throat – that’s how mic arms get worn out,” says Harnack. “Don’t touch the mic, leave it where it is.”
- Get a mic muff for each employee. The cost may be $20 per muff for standard mics, but Harnack says the muff doesn’t need to be the exact model for the mic that’s in the studio. “There are generic mic muffs that are in the $10-$12 range,” he says.
- Make sure there’s hand sanitizer in the studio, even if it means bringing your own.
- Wipe it down. While disinfecting wipes have suddenly become tough to find at the store, they’re worth finding. Harnack says a lot more things in a studio can be wiped down without becoming damaged than some might think. “Just wipe down the audio console, mic arms, headphone jack areas – the things you are going to touch – like the knobs and keyboards,” he says. Harnack says of special attention should be the headphone and speaker volume controls. “Those are probably touched more than anything else in the room,” he says. Telephones should get wiped-down too. Harnack thinks it might even be a good time to replace the keyboard and mouse with ones that are easier to keep clean. And perhaps even do it every few weeks, depending on their use. “Keyboards and mice are generally really cheap now,” he points out. And don’t forget the mousepad.
- Don’t spray the touchscreen. A good rule of thumb according to Harnack is don’t use cleaning or disinfecting sprays on any studio equipment that has slots in them, such as an audio console with faders that move up and down. “Don’t use a Lysol spray on them but use Clorox wipes all you want. And if you use the wipes, you don’t have to worry about over-spray,” he says. “Alcohol is fine for any surface that’s in a modern broadcast facility.” He says it doesn’t require any special types – anything you can find in the supermarket is just fine. “But I wouldn’t spray Lysol on stuff,” he adds. “If it’s not electronics, you can spray the tabletop or doorknobs with Lysol – you can do that.”
- If you’re sick, stay home. In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, experts are urging people who are not feeling well to self-quarantine as the only effective way to keep the coronavirus epidemic at bay. “If you’re sick, don’t come in to do your shift,” says Harnack. He points to the off-color but appropriately named #StayTheFuckHome movement that has swept social media and spawned a website with a full explanation for why remaining at home is the best decision. There are also these workplace guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
- Take work home instead. “A lot of jocks do their voice-tracking at the studio, but a lot of jocks also now do it at home,” Harnack says. “If you’re not set up to do it at home, now is the time to get with your engineer, find out what you need to order, get a decent microphone or headset, a USB converter into your laptop, and you could be in business for a couple hundred bucks.” He says companies like Telos offer technology that allows voice-tracking be done remotely. “One of our best clients does talk shows and runs ball games from home, and he’s hundreds of miles from the station he owns,” says Harnack.
- Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze is what parents teach their kids. In a confined space like a radio studio that may be even more important. “There needs to be tissues in every room, in the studios, offices, lounges – and a trash can,” Harnack suggests.
- Don’t touch your face. “If you don’t touch your face, you could put off all the things that I mentioned if you’re just wearing disposable gloves and you don’t touch your face,” he says.
- When the air shift is over, wash your hands.