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 Publisher:  Information Station Specialists
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Ventura County Health California Spring 2011
Ventura's New Voice: Radio + Digital Sign = Powerful New Communication Tool
Early in 2008, Ventura County Health's emergency preparedness specialist Steve Johnston approached Information Station Specialists with a set of needs that ultimately led to the birth of a new means of reaching the public with health and safety information during a crisis. The RadioSTAT Portable Emergency Advisory Radio Station was designed through this public/private collaboration to be used in conjunction with portable road signs that instruct motorists to tune to a special AM radio frequency for critical information at PODs, incidents, disasters, evacuations and events. Later that year, Information Station Specialists assisted Johnston in debuting this new capability at 'Operation Sunrise,' a special training event the County hosts for volunteer Citizen Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), first responders and other emergency professionals to help hone their skills. See Ventura County Case Study 1. 

Skip ahead to 2011 and the just-completed 'Operation Medical Shelter' event. Information Station Specialists and County health/safety officials again teamed to debut an innovative technology: this time VoiceStar - a communication solution that includes the visual component as well as the aural.

VoiceStar Portable Advisory Radio Systems, manufactured by our partner American Signal Company, are composed of towable, all-weather trailers with information radio stations onboard. The versions displayed at the event included 6-by-11-foot changeable message signs to alert incoming traffic to the special radio signal. (Both the radio messages and sign text may be programmed remotely as well as in the field at the units themselves.) See more on VoiceStar here.

Two VoiceStar systems were utilized during 'Operation Medical Shelter' – one on the approach road and one positioned near parking areas. Broadcast messages informed participants about directions, parking, hours of operation and schedule of events during the exercise. In an actual emergency, FCC rules give government officials wide latitude in how they may use information broadcast stations to protect the public. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office recently procured the two VoiceStar units, which were in operation during the event.

Johnston describes the stations' purpose this way, "The RadioSTAT (and now VoiceStar) Portable Emergency Advisory Radio Stations are constantly being utilized by a variety of county agencies for a variety of missions. While its utility in disaster response is self-evident, it provides a valuable component to exercises, vaccine clinics and whenever we need to communicate information to a continuous stream of community members. Our Auxiliary Communications Volunteers have created a process to create messaging and respond whenever the equipment is activated."

(VoiceStar systems are in use nationally, obtained recently by Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties (WA), Washoe County (NV), the Veterans Administration, the US Army Corps of Engineers and various State Departments of Transportation.)
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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.