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To spread the message about radon, WGAL TV – a local Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania news channel – and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), Bureau of Radiation Protection, Radon Division organized a phone bank of radon experts to answer viewer call-in questions during a live on-air broadcast.
The day prior to the phone bank, Susan Shapiro, a reporter for WGAL, did a broadcast news story related to radon. She interviewed a Lancaster family with high radon levels who subsequently mitigated the home, and she also interviewed a representative of the PA DEP Radon Division who provided general information of radon in general and some specifics of local occurrences. The purpose of these broadcasts was to showcase real life stories to impact the viewing audience enough for them to take action.
The night after the broadcast, WGAL held a live radon phone bank. For the second year in a row, a panel of radon experts were gathered, including three state employees from the Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP), a retired BRP employee, a Lancaster County medical doctor, an American Lung Association (ALA) representative and five representatives from the radon testing and mitigation industry. From 5 to 6:30 p.m., the phones rang off the hook, and the phone bank received roughly 383 phone calls. Although most questions were basic homeowner questions, Susan would do live interviews of several of the phone bank experts to give further explanation or details regarding the radon issue.
This activity has clearly made an impact and furthered the reach of all of the panelists who were involved: the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection website saw big increases in the number of page hits; ALA gave away 400 to 500 test kits in only a period of two days; and the testing and mitigation industry representatives reported large spikes in phone calls and business since the program aired. The Radon Division hopes to do the same broadcast next year with WGAL in Lancaster – potentially expanding to other broadcast areas as well.
This is the second year in a row that the Radon Division has sponsored this NRAM activity. The first year this activity was done, it focused on Linda D’Agostino’s family and their story. Linda’s home had high radon levels – 87 pCi/L. Linda was subsequently diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. She was also a smoker. As a cancer survivor, Linda now advocates for radon outreach and awareness.