The Source
Issue Date • June 2013
Rulemaking Rising
Draft of New TIS Rules Moves Up to Chairman's Office for Vote

WASHINGTON, DC:  The American Association of Information Radio Operators' (AAIRO) petition to clarify and enhance the public safety language in the FCC's Travelers Information Station rules just made a significant move upward.

According to AAIRO counsel Frank Jazzo, “The TIS item has been sent up to the Chairman’s Office,” where it may soon be voted on by the Commissioners. According to Jazzo, the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau that crafted the rule changes is recommending that the Commissioners move forward quickly on the item. This was confirmed by the Bureau in a conference call regarding TIS on Wednesday, June 19. FCC TIS Rulemaking

With the departure of outgoing chairman Julius Genachowski and a second commissioner this spring, the five-person Commission has only three members currently, headed by interim chairperson Mignon Clyburn. It is hoped that the streamlined Commission might be able to move this non-controversial item into circulation for a vote promptly.

Jazzo was told by sources that the new rules were significantly edited in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and the Newtown
shootings.

AAIRO's position is that in the 21st century, public safety and emergency management officials need the flexibility to utilize Travelers Information Stations to instruct/alert motorists directly, before,  during and after emergencies. The existing TIS Rules written in the early 1970s do not address that need.

See MissionCritical Communications Magazine's June 12 online exclusive:  "Emergency Managers Await New Rules for Critical TIS Service."

A Fair Question: Safety
Texas State Fair Expands Info Radio Service to Protect Guests
Texas State Fair Cowboy StatueDALLAS, TX:  On October 19, 2012, visitors to the Texas State Fair watched in disbelief as their historic 5-story mascot caught fire and burned before their eyes. “Big Tex,” the Fair’s gargantuan greeter and personified public address system, had experienced an electrical fire that forced him into early retirement at age 60.

The same year, the State Fair launched an Information Radio Service whose parallel job it was to welcome and inform patrons – though over a much larger area of 3-5 miles in radius (25-75 square miles). The 1650 kHz signal could be heard all around downtown Dallas, directing motorists to available parking and suggesting efficient travel routes.

Now, in 2013, the Fair has made their broadcast antenna and their FCC license permanent, expanding the operation dates to coincide with "Summer Adventures at Fair Park," which runs through August 18. The venue becomes the first event of its kind to operate an Information Radio Station for months in advance of the Fair, which doesn't begin until October.

The Texas event joins the South Carolina and Kentucky State Fairs, which have employed Information Radio Stations to prepare patrons with event parking and traffic info as they approach the state fairgrounds. Should visitors be required to exit parking lots due to an emergency, the service can become a critical conduit for public safety information for motorists in harm’s way who might be required to take alternate routes or who could become gridlocked in their vehicles.

Large gatherings, such as major golf tournaments and music festivals, have provided this service to visitors in the past and continue to do so. In June Texas State Fair Ferris Wheel2013, the Douglas County (Nebraska) Department of Emergency Management employed a portable Information Radio Station to inform and advise 30,000 visitors at the College World Series games in Omaha; Allegan County’s Department of Emergency Management near Grand Rapids, Michigan, provides a similar service to alleviate traffic congestion at an annual music festival "bash," which draws 70,000 people. The Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, like the state fairs, will broadcast to its estimated 150,000 attendees in August using the EventCAST Radio Station (rental) provided by Information Station Specialists.

Meanwhile, the Texas State Fair continues to upgrade and enlarge their Information Radio Service for patrons. And Big Tex returns too, this year – like the Information Station – keeping guests informed and safe and providing them an occasional "Howdy" along the way.
White Fire Blackens
Santa Barbara Hills
As Info Radio Assists Evacuation

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CA: Two thousand acres and three million dollars. That is the damage estimated to have been caused by an intense wildfire named “the white fire” that burned out of control near Santa Barbara, California, last month. An Information Radio Station has been credited with informing evacuees and likely saving lives and property as residents lined up to flee the area.

“We used the [San Marcos Pass Emergency Radio] SMPERS station in Paradise Canyon, where thousands of people were evacuated during this aggressive wind-driven fire,” states Michael Williams of a nearby volunteer fire company and residents association. “SMPERS was one of the few sources of information for many hours, until the US Forest Service established their formal command and the media set up. In the end, no one was hurt.”

SMPERS Logo
Click SMPERS logo above to learn why this Information Radio Service was instituted.

According to Williams, the station was strategically positioned to serve as an information source for motorists who line up on two-lane roads to exit residential areas when wildfires approach. The station’s programming can be updated by telephone or, if lines go down, either physically or through a redundant VHF two-way radio system.

Firefighting agencies have turned to Information Radio Systems in recent years to apprise the public of the dangers, status and the inevitable changes in transportation patterns that occur as a result of fast-moving wildfires. Information Station Specialists engineers designed RadioSTAT, a portable version of the San Marcos Pass radio station that can be moved out of harms way and/or ahead of a wildfire as the fire’s footprint on the landscape changes.

Visit the Wildland Residents Association website and see how their radio station (SMPERS) fits into the community's overall emergency plan. See also a case study published in 2005 about the station.