The Source
Issue Date • December 2012
Putting Out Fires
Information Stations Invaluable in California Wildfire Evacuations
SANTA BARBARA, CA: Two significant wildfires in three weeks near Santa Barbara, California, have tested the area’s Information Radio Stations’ ability to direct the public quickly out of harm’s way.

California Wildfire and Travelers Information StationsOn October 17th, a vegetation fire caused by downed power lines required the evacuation of Painted Cave, CA – a community that lost more than 400 homes and public buildings in a devastating fire in 1990. The nearby San Marcos Pass Information Station on AM 1040, operated by Mike Williams, broadcast critical fire and evacuation information continuously for residents as they lined up on Highway 154 to exit. In the end, all lives and structures were saved and the fire was contained to 44 acres.

Three weeks later, a similar fire in Montecito, California's, backcountry triggered emergency evacuation information to be broadcast on Montecito Fire Protection District’s Information Station on AM 1610. The San Marcos Pass station carried the evacuation information, as well. Fortunately, this fire was contained by late afternoon and residents returned to intact homes.

States Williams, “The use of low power radio in emergency situations proves invaluable. The ability to provide quick information to the public is essential during fast moving events such as wildfires.”

See a San Marcos pass Emergency Radio System overview.

Listen to the “Community alert” talk show for an overview & History of info radio stations.
Chilling When It Counts
PowerSTAT Units Keep Vaccine Refrigerators Humming During Outages
Portable Power Source Pure Clean EnergyThe PowerSTAT portable power product introduced by manufacturer Information Station Specialists earlier this year has just completed a series of tests that indicate it might present opportunities for Health Departments who want to maintain operation of vaccine refrigerators when grid power goes down.

Research shows that a 4.5 cubic-foot fridge will run 72 hours on PowerSTAT’s internal batteries. The run-time can be multiplied 4X by the addition of outboard batteries.

PowerSTAT units have been shipping to local health departments since the beginning of 2012, according to Information Station Specialists president Bill Baker. “It’s popular with health departments because it is quiet and does not rely on fossil fuel, so it can be used indoors – unlike a conventional generator,” states Baker. “You keep the refrigerator plugged into it all the time, and when power drops, it’s already online. Since it is on wheels, you can take it to remote Points of Dispensing (PODS) as well.”

Communities that operate Information Radio Stations also employ the technology. Sweetwater County, Wyoming, operates three PowerSTAT units that serve as the main power sources for the County’s three portable Information Radio Stations when they are deployed. Operators with fixed stations employ the unit as an “uninterruptable power supply” to allow broadcasting to continue automatically should power be cut.

PowerSTAT units have recently been added to the FEMA Responders Knowledge Base (RKB).

See Powerstat Product details here.
LA Lacks LAX Radio
Nation's First Information Station Goes Silent
Word is that Los Angeles LAX Airport’s oversized AM 530 signal that has blanketed the LA basin since anyone can remember … is silent.

Is the nation’s premier Information Radio Station really DOA? Or is it just AWOL?

"The Source" reached out to Dick Burden, the station’s original consultant/designer to get the story. Burden stated that the airport’s contract with a local vendor to manage the station lapsed in 2011 and that “the Airport appeared to be no longer willing to bear the expense of operation.”

The LAX station and its high efficiency antenna operated with a special FCC waiver that allowed it to broadcast at 100 watts instead of the conventional 10 watts. Due to the long wavelength of the 530 frequency, the signal could be monitored more than 30 miles away.

Muses Burden, “It’s sad to hear that this installation, which gave birth to the Travelers Information Service as we know it today, and established the original 530 and 1610 frequencies as TIS frequencies, is no longer interested in the public service it has offered to travelers using the Airport for the past 40 years.”

RIP, LAX 530.

Talk to The Source  
Selected Reader Responses  
'AM' azing
After reading what you attached, I was amazed at the progress that has been made since I started working with your company back in the 90's while I was in Naperville [IL]. I remember we started with the one transmitter and then added two more and hooked them together using satellite connections so that the signal covered the 50 square miles of the city. Reading what technology has been added and the different platforms associated with the programs really provides a great emergency management tool to keep residents informed. It has come a long way in the past several years. Hopefully the rules will change for the better so that these stations can be used more in emergencies. Would be nice if more agencies here in Florida would use it since we get hurricanes annually and power is lost, a car radio or portable radio keeps you informed. Thanks for keeping me informed.
Bill Reynolds, Former Naperville, IL, EM Coordinator

Relevant for Non-Radio Folks Too
I signed up for the free regular newsletter. For me, it is all about the practical application of the technology. The piece on Sandy was good. Looks like you guys know how to communicate with us non-radio people as well. Looking forward to receiving next update.
Nicholas J. Child, Deputy Director, Grafton Emergency Management Agency, MA

Info Radio Can Speak when Computers Can't
One point which must be driven home about the Information Radio stations: There is lots of idiocy and ignorance out there regarding the saturation and accessibility of the new media – computers, iPhones, “Smart”phones, etc. So many responsible agencies act as if the Internet and all associated peripherals will survive a major natural disaster – NO WAY. They will shrivel and die just like in a William Castle horror movie! Only radio stations and battery or crank-powered receivers will survive to play whatever is delivered over the air. The stations in question can be 50-kilowatt powerhouses or a 10-watt flamethrower like our station. In either case, information – local information that is – is king and Information Radio Stations are the top of the heap.
Richard K. Phoenix, Chief Operator WPQJ970, Borough Clerk, North Plainfield, NJ

Never Thought of Streaming
Liked the newsletter .... Never thought about streaming info radio over the net.
Rosann Fillmore, US Forest Service, Manti LaSal National Forest, UT

Helping Survivors
I've been very busy lately [and] saw the newsletter...wonderful job helping disaster survivors with great emergency Comms in NJ. Thanks for all you do.
Cathy Dempsey, FEMA Disaster Generalist

Two Storms in Two Years Is Too Much
I can tell you this ... I will be making a BIG campaign to my town hall officials and residents why we need the [Information Radio streaming] product. I am not expecting any opposition. Two storms in two years....with a large elderly population ... I will use these two topics along with topics that will support the purchase and use of the equipment. Thanks!
Don Izzo, Director, Westbrook Emergency Management, CT

Sandy Proved a Point
... Hurricane Sandy was on and knocked out phones/cell phones/internet -- I believe the whole government of Bound Brook and OEM is convinced that we need an AM station. Thanks.
Carey Pilato, Mayor, Bound Brook, NJ

Email your comments to The Source.