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BBC learning videos, disaster series – review


Product: BBC Learning Videos ‘Disaster Series’
- Disaster Special King’s Cross Beneath the Flames
- Disaster Special Kansas City Death by Design

Author: BBC Learning

Name & Address of producer/ publisher: BBC Worldwide Ltd, 80 Wood Lane, London W12 OTT
Tel 020 8433 2541 Fax 020 8433 2916
Email [email protected] web
Date of Publication: May 2002
Price: Each video pack is £499.00
Further details of BBC Learning products can be found at

Product description: These are professionally produced training aides of a typically good standard that you would expect from the BBC. Each Video comes in a double sized plastic video box with both the packaging and contents continuing a ‘series’ design. There is a good description of the contents (including running times) on the back of each box. The booklet that comes in each box is made of card which should help prolong its life if it is used regularly and there is a floppy disk within each box with a teachers notes sheet in a word document so that it can be printed off whenever required. Surprisingly the teachers note document is extremely plain and has no BBC logo etc. The print font and style are poor and really is not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the pack. The Kansas City disk actually fell to pieces when I ejected it from my A drive. At £500 a pack I would have expected better.

A BBC News Release that accompanied the Video packs states: “The ‘disaster’ series builds on the success of the popular BBC2 Disaster Series, which uncovers the complex sequence of events behind some of the world’s worst disasters”. And “We are confident that the series will appeal to a range of individuals and organisations interested in learning about the latest methods of effective risk and crisis management”. There are, it states, plans to produce two more in the series ‘The Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster’ and the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise Car Ferry Sinking’.


The booklet and teaching notes give a summary of the events and explain the chronological order of events portrayed in the videos. Both are easy to follow and understand and are written in plain English. Each topic is deal with in a short paragraph and anyone teaching the subject would quickly find they could remember the content without having to constantly refer to the notes. The Kansas City teaching notes contain a useful summary of engineering in America.

In addition both the booklet & teaching notes suggest ‘Activities and Points for Discussion’ and the Kansas City one suggests discussion around the emergency response, the risk assessment and the engineering design. The questions are well formulated and would provoke some good discussion.

The videos are a combination of good quality real time footage, dramatisation and interviews with eye-witnesses. The sound is extremely crisp. The American accents on the Kansas City video are easy on the ear and John Nettles the English actor commentates on both videos.

Personally I felt too much went into building the dramatisations and the resultant 30-minute video was too long. I soon found my concentration wandering and I felt that teachers might have appreciated some breakpoints in the 30-minute programmes to allow for questions or a short comfort break.

The modules at the end however were much better and could be dealt with one at a time if preferred.

Of the two videos I imagine English audiences might find the Kings Cross video more interesting. Similarly the two follow up videos Hillsborough and the Spirit of Free Enterprise are more likely to be more appealing to the English market and the Kansas City incident was perhaps a strange choice to launch the series?

Stephen P Radburn
Training Consultant
[email protected]


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