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Case Study:  Naperville, Illinois

1996; Updated 2014
Naperville 1996 Flood
The Naperville flood of 1996 left residents and motorists isolated except for radio. 

Naperville's Emergency Advisory Radio, Only Info Source During Flood
Project Startup Date: December 1993.

Station: 1610-AM WPFP 929, City of Naperville - 3 synchronized Information Stations.

Dan Nelson  (Bill Reynolds, now retired, installed Naperville's first information radio system)
Emergency Management Coordinator
City of Naperville Emergency Management Agency
1380 Aurora Avenue
Naperville, IL 60540–6206
Tel: 630.420.6009

Program Type: Use of local AM information radio station for emergency/disaster information.

Target Population: Residents of Naperville, Illinois, population 119,089.

Setting: Citywide broadcast, covering more than 40 square miles.

Program Description: 
The City of Naperville, Illinois, Emergency Management Agency suggested to the city administration that a low-power travelers information radio station would be an asset during any emergency/ disaster and a good method for providing residents with local weather and information on a day-to-day basis. The station went on the air in December 1993 with a 6-minute broadcast of local civic events and weather information. The station can store up to 14 minutes of information that is repeated 24 hours a day, with weather updates 3 times daily. 

Once the station was on the air, a survey was conducted to identify areas within the city limits with poor reception. The station was upgraded by adding two satellite transmitters tied to the main transmitter, which provided a good signal throughout the city’s 40 square miles. Station programming provides information on local civic events, nonprofit events, road closures, and special information from the city about rubbish pickups, holiday hours, and snow plowing. The reading of local newspapers for the visually impaired was added in 1996.

The City of Naperville was struck by a flood on July 18–19, 1996, with approximately 10,000 homes affected. The city normally uses its cable TV access channel to provide emergency information to the public, but due to the flood and power outages, cable TV was off the air and the AM radio station was the only resource available. It provided information on the flood, relief efforts, and assistance information for 5 days until the cable TV channel returned to the air. The information was updated every 3 to 4 hours and proved to be effective in keeping the public informed. Following the July 1996 flood, equipment was added to link the transmitters to the location satellite system. The installation of the satellite alignment system enhanced the audio output of the station and increased overall clarity.

The day-to-day programming is coordinated by the city’s Community Relations Department and the weather is provided by the City Dispatch Center. Information is usually recorded via telephone and is accessible from any telephone, which works well in emergencies.

Evaluation Information:
Report on the successful use of the AM station during July 1996 flooding, as reported in the National Travelers Information Radio Exchange, NTIRE News, Vol. 6, Issue 1.

Annual Budget:
No funds are specifically earmarked for this program because the cost of the station equipment was a one-time budget item and there have been no maintenance costs for any of the three transmitters since they were installed. If maintenance is required, the funds will come from Naperville’s fund for radio equipment maintenance. 
In 2014, the City authorized a complete rebuild of their Information Station system, upgrading to RF-based Wireless Audio Link as the means of audio distribution to the synchronized (2) stations; program control via Information Station Specialists’ IP76 (file/network based) message repetition system; adding the InfoRadio Format to increase professional sound and providing the programming to residents via StreamCast to PC’s and portable devices. (Stream the broadcast.) Naperville is retaining NOAA Weather Radio emergency interrupts as well as their phone-based audio system as a redundancy.
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