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Case Study:  Puyallup, Washington

February 2005
Photos courtesy of Dave Potter
Puyallup Fire Department, WA
Puyallup's Installation
Below emergency manager Dave Potter offers a recap and assessment of the city's radio station project, which, it turned out, was a precursor to Pierce County and the Puyallup River Valley also acquiring stations, 3 in all with GPS audio synchronization .

How was your emergency-advisory-radio project implemented?

Potter: We started looking at it as an additional way to get information out to public in the event of a Mount Rainier "lahar" emergency [see below for a description of lahar]. After looking at the matter for a time, we decided an emergency advisory radio station could be used for much more than just Mount Rainier emergencies and decided to go ahead with the project. It was funded from the city's emergency management budget. Interestingly, Pierce County Department of Emergency Management followed the project with interest and is now looking to cover the entire Puyallup River Valley with a network of radios.

How is your station managed?

Potter: I manage and maintain the system. Messages play all the time with information about burning, hospital location, terrorist threat level, flooding and sandbag information, road closures, etc. We were on the local cable TV with the Department of Emergency Management for a short segment about the radio. We have been in the local paper covering the radio and in the city's public newsletter covering the radio. And we include it in the public presentations we make at meetings, nursing homes, businesses, Rotary, Kiwanis, Downtown Association, etc. We also have signs up around the city with the frequency on it: 1580AM WPWG 300. [See picture, right.]

Where is your station physically located and why?

Potter: It is at the city parks yard.

Has the station actually been used for any emergencies yet?

Potter: Lahar drills, public information on flooding and other drills. For Lahar, we tell listeners to run for their lives, follow posted routes, obey instructions of emergency personnel, etc.

Is it used to convey community information, such as, for tourists or locals?

Potter: Yes, mainly for street closures, traffic reroutes from the Western Washington Fair, etc. [Listen to a sample Puyallup broadcast - 2.62MB WAV file download.]

Have you had any response from the public regarding the station?

Potter: Yes, lots. Great idea. More coverage! Etc.

What do you see as the overall result of your emergency-advisory-radio-station effort?

Potter: Increase in public awareness of the overall problem of emergency preparedness.

Did you encounter any difficulties on the project and, if so, how were they resolved?

Potter: Site placement was a bit of a problem. Getting the best coverage, and still being secure station equipment was a struggle, but not impossible. Another challenge was getting everyone to agree on how we want to change broadcasts over from the routine messages to emergency messages.

What advice do you have for emergency managers in other communities who might be considering such a system?

Potter: This is a great idea and well worth the investment for constant flow of emergency information to the public.

Email Dave.

What is a lahar emergency?
According to Wikipedia, 'Lahar'...describes volcanic mudflows or debris flows [having]...a consistency, viscosity and approximate density of concrete: fluid when moving, solid at rest. Lahars can be huge. The...lahar produced by Mount Rainier (Washington) some 5,600 years ago resulted in a wall of mud 140 metres (460 ft) deep in the White River canyon.... A lahar of sufficient size and intensity can erase virtually any structure in its path.... Lahars vary in size and speed. Small lahars less than a few metres wide and several centimetres deep may flow a few metres per second. Large lahars hundreds of metres wide and tens of metres deep can flow several tens of metres per second: much too fast for people to outrun...."
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