The Source
  Issue Date • January 2018 Easy-to-Print Copy
Disaster Strikes Twice
Montecito Fire Protection District Pulls Out All Stops to Deliver Critical Information to Evacuating Residents by Radio, Internet Stream Technology
Aftermath 
Captain John Pepper of the Fresno Fire Department prepares to search a Montecito home after mudflow devastation.

Photo by Mike Eliason
MONTECITO, CA: In December, the largest fire ever recorded in California’s history burned to the doorstep of Montecito, located just east of Santa Barbara. The Thomas Fire had consumed a staggering 300,000 acres as fierce Santa Ana winds whipped its flames across Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. More than 200 fire trucks were prepositioned, awaiting its arrival.
Montecito Fire
Photo provided by the Montecito Fire Protection District
On the 11th, the Montecito Fire Protection District issued the order for 10,000 residents to evacuate utilizing its ALERT AM Emergency Advisory Radio System, which it had the forethought to install a decade before. Once residents were out of signal range, the District continued to utilize the system’s StreamCast internet audio streaming feature, accessible from the District's website, to funnel the broadcast to evacuees via their smartphones and PCs.
"Mere pictures cannot describe this. It was devasting. I have never seen anything like it and I have worked in the fire service for 31 year." ...Jackie Jenkins
Listeners who monitored the audio stream jumped by a factor of 6. Then came the 16th, when north winds blew the fire right into Montecito itself. Grid power and the District’s emergency generators were off line causing both the radio station and the audio stream to fail once the Uninterruptible Power Source (UPI) was depleted. Arrangements were quickly made for Information Station Specialists to produce the audio stream at their Michigan headquarters and send it to the Montecito website to maintain the service.
Montecito's Brand
Montecito Fire Protection District's StreamCast Link on Their Website
But it wasn’t over.

The area whose name translates “little mountain” was presented with an even bigger problem. Emergency management officials anticipated that approaching rains could destabilize the ground in burned areas and issued Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to warn everyone in the region. In the predawn hours of January 9th, precipitation began to pour at the rate of a half-inch every 5 minutes. As predicted, the ground began to move. The Fire Protection District’s Communication Coordinator Jackie Jenkins was sleeping in her office when the power went off.

“We heard a rumbling in the distance. We thought it was thunder. I looked out the window and there was a glow – which turned out to be a fire caused by a huge gas explosion.” The landslide that residents had feared had materialized (video link from CHP dashcam). Down the slopes thundered tons of mud containing rocks the size of semi trucks, destroying dozens of homes and damaging hundreds more. US 101, which parallels Montecito’s picturesque shore, was closed by some 12 feet of mud and debris, prompting a 260-mile detour for coastal travelers.
101 Underwater
US 101 Underwater in January at Montecito.
At last count, 29 people had lost their lives and not all are yet accounted for.

In the three weeks that have followed, some residents have been allowed to return to their homes. Services have been restored in some places. In Jenkins’ words, “The local residents are strong;…but some aspects of Montecito will never be the same.”
Editors note: Emergency Advisory Radio technology was also utilized by neighboring UC Santa Barbara and the Cities of Ojai and Wildlands Residents (HOA) Association at San Marcos Pass, CA, in conjunction with these events.
Florida Fair
Event Security 2018: Taking Nothing for Granted
What Happened in Vegas
Can't Happen Everywhere
WEST PALM BEACH, FL: With recent shootings at a Las Vegas concert venue fresh in memory, event security planners are doubling down on the details of “what if’s” and considering even the least likely of scenarios to protect patrons. Many are using information radio stations as one means of disseminating security information to inbound visitors before arrival to speed efficiency and safety.
The Fair's Brand
On websites and signs, South Florida Fair brands its information radio service "1690 AM #FairRadio."
At this January’s South Florida Fair, which just concluded on the 28th, Security Chief Randy Hoffer is in the third year providing a service called EventCast that the Fair promotes as “1690AM #Fair Radio." Mingled with parking and orientation information in the broadcast are key safety and security messages that the Fair needs patrons to be aware of before approaching gates:
  • Prohibited items that can’t be brought into the venue, including illegal weapons, drugs and alcohol.
  • Guests will be required to pass through metal detectors prior to entry.
  • How to find help if a patron suspects something is amiss.
  • The location of emergency medical services.
Listen to a sample broadcast.

“With the escalating security concerns in our country and world today, it’s imperative that we have rapid and available communication with the general public at our venue,” states Hoffer. “With this powerful tool in our hands….we can quickly and accurately reach our patrons to provide directions, warnings, and vital information. Our event has 500,000 paying customers who need and deserve rapid and accurate information in a format they can access.”

Should attendees be required to exit quickly due to a safety threat, the station stands ready to direct guests away from the fairgrounds in an orderly fashion.

The broadcast can be heard for miles around the fairgrounds, which is located between I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike. Portable changeable message signs direct inbound patrons to the 1690 frequency, as they exit local highways and approach parking entrances. The service is also used to announce daily schedules and schedule changes.

Hoffer continues, “We thought we were prepared for everything [in 2015], until torrential rains caused the Fair to delay opening by six hours. Our pre-recorded radio messages all had the original opening time in them....
Las Vegas memorial
Makeshift Memorials beneath the Iconic Las Vegas Welcome Sign
"But, in a matter of minutes we were able to record a new message with a updated opening time. This certainly made it obvious what a flexible system this truly is in an emergency.”
Opioid Info on the Air
Broadcast Messages Created Specifically for Information Stations to be Distributed by AAIRO
ITASCA, IL: Our December newsletter, which featured the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, spurred the National Safety Council (NSC) to contact the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) with a question: Why isn’t someone creating messages specific to the crisis for broadcast on our nation’s information radio stations?

Answer: Now they are.
Opioid Icon 
At AAIRO’s encouragement, NSC writers went to work creating draft scripts. The Council then utilized their professional announcers to record the messages in precisely the format required for information radio station broadcasts. AAIRO has edited the recordings into a 30-second (hear sample), a 60-second and a detailed "informercial" version that runs a full 3.5 minutes. The long-form version goes into detail regarding what to do in an overdose situation and how to minimize its likelihood.

The messages can be aired on information radio stations and shared with local broadcasters to maximize impact.

AAIRO members can receive the messages at no charge and readers can join AAIRO at no cost. (Visit AAIRO.org.) Also, if readers reply to this newsletter's email with their contact information they will be enrolled in AAIRO if requested. The Association will be reaching out to members in the next weeks with download instructions. The messages are provided in their original form and also processed for an operator's specific radio station's broadcast.

The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable death. For some time now it has had an initiative directed toward reducing the death rate due to opioid dependence.

In 2016, more than 42,000 died of opioid-related overdoses, the worst year on record. This resulted in the recent emergency designation and qualified the topic for broadcast on information radio (TIS/HAR) stations nationwide.


Inbox
North Plainfield students
North Plainfield students
NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ: The 1630 kHz Information Station in this New Jersey borough requires local event messages to be aired from time to time in English and other languages and has engaged with North Plainfield High School to create them. Pictured above are five students who recently recorded broadcast messages in English, French and Spanish. Left-right/top-bottom are Ayah Elsais, Anne Joseph, Frankie Dox, Laura Amancha and Demetrius Acevedo. The Source tips its hat to these student broadcasters and to North Plainfield for this creative way of engaging with the community and broadening the usefulness of the information radio programming.