The Source
Issue Date • August 2015
Storm Damage  AGREM logo  AGREM water tower 
FCC Approves "Mega-Sized" Information Station
Grants PA Emergency Management Group 3 Waivers
that will Produce 3X Coverage
Is WRCR
Wreaking Havoc?
Tri-State TIS Stations Determining if 1700 Broadcaster Will
Produce Monstrous
or Minimum Mayhem
 
WRCR 1700 Debut Press Release Photo
SPRING VALLEY, NY:  Information Radio broadcasters on 1700 kHz in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have known for 8 years that someday their frequency would host an unwelcome guest. The guest finally arrived on the 13th of July when WRCR in Spring Valley, NY, made the move from their 1300 AM frequency up to 1700. Now Information Stations on 1690 and 1700 in the region are assessing the impact.

It’s really not WRCR’s fault. What broadcaster wouldn’t want to increase his/her signal twenty-fold and move to a frequency shared by only two other broadcasters east of the Mississippi? But the change has left tri-state TIS stations with a decision:  accept the interference, cease operation or move to a new frequency.

Changing frequencies is not an easy thing to accomplish, since the community must mount a public information campaign and modify physical signage to promote the new channel. The FCC license and the transmitter / antenna system also require adjustment.

Some TIS stations have taken a wait-and-see approach, assessing how much interference WRCR will produce to their range and quality. But two 1700 operators in New Jersey – the Borough of Manville and Clark Township – have decided to make the move to a new spot on the band.

Clark Township is making the change in conjunction with an upgrade of its audio equipment to allow for network control and improved broadcast quality.
 
Wrong Day to Be in the Right-of-Way?
Click photos below to enlarge them.
Station Damage 2015
This fixed Highway Advisory Radio Station (TIS/HAR) was knocked completely off its foundation on I-64 at Hampton, VA, in August.
Station Damage 2015
A semi truck sideswiped this portable TIS/HAR station near Little Rock, AR, in July, semi-destroying it.
WEST GROVE, PA: Why would the Federal Communications Commission grant one Information Station (TIS) licensee the right to bump its antenna height and signal levels above the legal ceilings? Answer: Because it successfully made the case that there would be no harm to broadcasters… and, therefore, no foul. The Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management Group (AGREM) in Pennsylvania is arguably the first such entity to be granted a trio of waivers by the FCC, which make its pioneering request for relaxed restrictions a reality.

The order (DA 15-782 released July 21st) by the Commission is expected to lead to additional requests by TIS licensees who would like the same privilege.

Recall that in the March issue of The Source, the FCC had asked for public comment on AGREM’s application for additional height and signal levels. Since, in the words of the FCC, “no party responded to the public notice,” and since AGREM made a successful showing that interference would not result, the project was given a green light.
AGREM team working 
AGREM team sets up the antenna during the initial phase of testing.
“Just as Ham Radio operators provide alternate communication methods in
emergencies and disasters, so too can the TIS stations.”
              ...David Flad, President, AGREM
Information Station antennas are normally limited to 15 meters in height by the FCC rules; but AGREM’s water-tower-mounted stick will top out at 39 meters. Normally, signals can’t exceed 2 millivolts at 1.5 km; but AGREM’s signal will extend out to 2.6 km. Result: the signal coverage area will be tripled.

“It all went through because they could prove that interference to area broadcasters would not result,” comments Bill Baker of Information Station Specialists, the firm AGREM tapped to apply for the approvals. “Other operators can do the same thing if they have adequate separation distances to broadcasters and TIS licensees on the same and adjacent frequencies.”

Southeastern Pennsylvania has experienced some brutal weather emergencies in recent years. On the first week of February, 2014, an ice storm severed power to 80% of Chester County, affecting 180,000 residents. The storm’s half-inch of ice caused tree limbs to fall on power, phone and cable lines causing residents loss of not only power, but also heat, communication and 911 service. Many elderly and handicapped residents were unable to travel or even to call to gain assistance. When a warming shelter was set up at the local high school, it was nearly impossible to get the word out about how people could take advantage of it.
Avon Grove sign 
Proposed Signage for Roadways in Southeastern Chester County, PA
The group first performed radio range tests using the EventCAST

Service
provided by Information Station Specialists. The results were helpful in convincing the FCC that the water tower was the only viable antenna location that could provide an unobstructed signal to the desired coverage area.

“There is no single [communication] method that will consistently survive in a disaster, so we need to have multiple means of communicating with residents and travelers,” states AGREM’s president David Flad. “TIS [Information Radio] fits very well into that concept and has the added benefit of providing a regular source of useful local information. By offering regular broadcast loops with relevant local information, it encourages having the station already preset into car and emergency portable radios so they are ready without having to think.”

See the sidebar immediately below "The Vision Comes to Fruition."
The Vision Comes to Fruition
“It was a long-time vision of our past President and friend, Mike Predmore, along with other early members of AGREM, to establish a locally-managed information station.

The goal was to provide travelers and others in the AGREM Community a local source of information before, during, and after any type of natural disaster or man-made event. A low-power broadcast station based on AM radio was chosen because almost every car has an AM radio and portable, battery-powered or hand-cranked, AM/FM emergency radios are available and relatively inexpensive.

Over a number of years, the plans were revised several times as equipment features and costs were identified and further refined. In late 2013, AGREM was actively working towards getting the station on the air during calendar 2014 or early 2015. Unfortunately, Mike passed away before seeing the station come to life.

In his memory, the AGREM team is working hard to bring Mike's idea to reality. We are also working to secure funding for ongoing operations, solar power backup, and for future expansion of the system with automatic alerting signage.”

…Excerpted from the Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management (AGREM) website.
See also the following links to other publications carrying the AGREM story.

Mission-Critical Communications, "FCC Grants Application, Waiver Requests for TIS in Pennsylvania," July 22, 2015.

RadioWorld, "Regional TIS Gets FCC Green Light" by Susan Ashworth, July 24, 2015.