March 2020 Health Issue
Newsletter Index Publisher:  Information Station Specialists Subscribe to The Source
Health Officials Rely on Radio In Massive Mitigation Effort
Hendricks County amateur radio volunteers Tom Stahl and Don Somerville set up temporary radio antenna in Indiana for COVID-19 mitigation effort.
March Madness now a Memory as Agencies Focus on Multi-Modal Public Information Dissemination
WASHINGTON, DC: On January 31st, the US Department of Health and Human Services determined that the COVID-19 virus constitutes a “national health emergency.” By the 11th of March, the World Health Organization had upped that characterization to “Pandemic.” Now it’s a National Emergency in the United States.*  But, no matter the label applied, US emergency management and health officials have entered an era without precedent in recent memory. They are calling in all tools available, and especially radio, to mitigate the threat and keep timely, local information accessible to the public. Examples:

Indiana County Covers COVID-19 Concentration Area

At Hendricks County near Indianapolis, the Health Department is deploying a portable emergency RadioSTAT station to the Town of Avon, where the County’s first two Coronavirus cases were recently confirmed by state health officials. Emergency coordinator Ron Burke recognizes this threat: “To the best of my knowledge, Central Indiana has never had an emergency like this before; if we did, nobody can remember one. Our new radio station will be operating around the clock,” he assures.

Anticipating this day, the health departments in 8 Indiana counties each obtained RadioSTAT systems in 2012.

“This is one of the easiest methods of keeping the community updated.”

 
Ron Burke
Emergency Coordinator, Hendricks County, Indiana
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (
ARES)
Portable InfOspot Station created for Hennepin County Emergency Management Agency
Burke set up the temporary station in Avon last week and keeps the broadcast program current. The range of 3-5 miles is suitable to blanket the entire community.

He explains, “It’s general information right now, but it will be updated with new info as it comes in. This is one of the easiest methods of keeping the community informed. The programming end is being handled by Jeff Corder of the Hendricks County Health Department.”
 
Above, quick-erect signage of the type used to announce health advisories and related advisory broadcasts.
His department, as well as local Emergency Management and Hendricks County ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) are all promoting the new frequency via various social media platforms.

The manufacturer of the RadioSTAT system, Information Station Specialists, also makes available, as a service, a rental version under the EventCAST name.


Hudson County in New Jersey Extends Range for COVID Broadcasts


Hudson County Emergency Management on Friday obtained a Special Temporary Assignment (STA) from FCC to ramp their RadioSAFE Emergency Station up to 100 watts. Their special system was installed after 9/11 and is located in Jersey City, just cross the river from Manhattan, and transmits on AM 1710 – one of the only radio stations in the hemisphere on that channel. The power increase has been granted for 90 days or the cessation of the national emergency, whichever occurs first.

InfOspot Pop-Up Radio Services

Information Station Specialists has also been getting increased calls for the InfOspot license-free transmitter and portable signage to push information out to motorists who arrive at the drive-thru COVID-19 testing locations being set up in several states as well as for future vaccine distribution. For example, the New York State Department of Transportation recently acquired several and says it will be using them at 3 new drive-up testing sites near Albany, beginning March 24th. Note: a portable version of InfOspot is available for quick / temporary setup.
"Our drive-in worship went really well today! Loud and clear signal all the way to the back of the parking lot. Had 52 cars, most with multiple occupants!"
Chuck Foerster
Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church
Grand Ledge, Michigan
 
Genoa Church and parking lots near Columbus, OH
The red arrow above points to the antenna / tuner mounted atop a church's stage framework below it.
Churches have begun utilizing the license-free radio solution at gatherings in which members attend in their vehicles to maintain social distancing. Genoa Church, a large congregation in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus, is opening up their parking lots for a drive-in service that will be broadcast to attendees over an InfOspot system. Church spokesman Kerry Buck told The Source that the pastor will be standing atop the two-story high church building when he delivers the sermon this Sunday. From that elevation, the transmitter's ¼ to ½-mile range should easily cover the church parking lots and surrounding streets. See these 2 additional articles about churches using license-free radio stations: (1) "Grand Ledge church holds drive-in services" by News10; (2) "A Time of Testing at the Church" by Washington Update.

If you anticipate using an InfOspot system to communicate with the public while mitigating community virus spread, make Information Station Specialists aware by email as soon as possible, so production can meet demand. All systems from the company are at discounted levels now due to the national emergency. Information Station Specialists has committed to staying at full capacity during this crisis.

Fort Lee, NJ, Simulcasts Stream to Broaden Reach

Police officials are pushing out updated information on the developing virus situation to not only motorists via radio but also to citizens in residences, some on self-quarantine, via a StreamCAST, which is accessed on the city's website. Monitor their regularly updated stream here.

Dozens of Emergency Radio Station operators utilize StreamCASTing services, including the Bay Area community Portola Valley, California, where operator Ray Rothrock observes: “The COVID-19 matter is of some grave concern here as everything is shutting down. A live conversation is desired because of the misinformation, etc., that is filling our inboxes. With a restriction of no meetings of any significant size by the county in place, we decided that probably we could do this as an emergency condition. So, it's another case of the emergency AM radio [and StreamCASTing] being put to use for exactly its intention. Getting valuable information from official sources out to our local town.” Listen to a Portola Valley broadcast.

Coronavirus Public Service Announcement Available at No Charge

The American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO.Org) produced and made available, on February 28th, a free Public Service Announcement regarding the virus that is suitable for broadcast on the emergency radio stations - and a version processed for local commercial broadcasters and the Internet.

Lexington-Fayette County's Department of Emergency Management in Kentucky has been airing the PSA on their network of 5 stations. More than 30 other agencies have requested copies. Some communities, such as North Plainfield, New Jersey, have transcribed and re-recorded it to tailor message content to their local situations. Others have requested custom versions, voiced specifically for their communities.

Please email The Source to get copies of the Public Service Announcement for your agency’s use or distribution to local broadcasters. You can read the PSA's text and listen to a sample below.
Coronavirus COVID-19 PSA Text      
As you are no doubt aware, COVID-19, also referred-to as the Coronavirus, is a serious public health threat. Cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in many countries, including the United States.
Implementation of basic precautions of infection control and prevention will become increasingly important:
  • Practice frequent hand-washing and avoid touching your hands to your face;
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of into the air;
  • Avoid close contact with others, especially if they are exhibiting signs of illness;
  • Stay home if you feel ill.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you decide to seek treatment, check with your health care provider prior to approaching a care center, so they can instruct you on the currently recommended procedures. Tune in periodically to this Information Radio Station for guidance and to monitor media news reports for updates on this serious health threat. 

Click here to listen to the PSA, edited for Information Radio Stations.
Footnote:
(*) As stated in FCC Part 90.242 - the designation of a National Emergency is not a prerequisite to utilize a licensed Emergency Advisory Radio Station (TIS/HAR) to broadcast content intended to protect life and property, with the specific content determined at the discretion of local safety officials. However, that rule section specifically states that emergency information of any kind is allowable for broadcast. These FCC Part 90 Rules are not pertinent to unlicensed stations such as the InfOspot system, which have no content restrictions.
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PO Box 51, Zeeland, Michigan, USA, 49464-0051, Phone 616.772.2300, Fax 616.772.2966, Email Form

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Information Radio Stations is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Stations (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio Stations (HAR) / Highway Information Systems & Low Power Radio Stations (LPR). Operation of the stations is governed by FCC Part 90.242 Rules. A FCC license is required. Information Radio Stations may be fixed or portable. Subcomponents may include transmitter, antenna and ground system, digital voice player, wattmeter, cabinet with conventional or Corbin locks, lightning arrestors for RF, power and telephone lines, coaxial cable. Most stations employ black maximized antennas to discourage ice accumulation and security measures to prevent unauthorized program access. Options include synchronization, battery backup, solar power, remote programming by local, network or telco, multi-station audio distribution via RF or LAN / WAN or wireless network.