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The Source Highlights 
Emergency & Evacuation Application Highlights
Lahaina Aftermath RadioSTAT Antenna Installed
The Aftermath at Lahaina
Shutterstock Photo
RadioSTAT Antenna in Evidence atop the Lahainaluna High School Gym
Photo Courtesy of Harmer Communications
Radio Aids Maui Recovery  
Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency Deploys Temporary Radio Stations to Advise Returning Residents
LAHAINA, HI, October 2023:  What took an instant to incinerate will require lifetimes to rebuild. As Maui residents return to reclaim what remains, their Emergency Management Agency is keeping them updated by radio. Not surprisingly, their first radio antenna location is in the Town of Lahaina on the high school gym, which thankfully was spared. Broadcasts may include a wide array of details critical for re-entering residents: locating shelter and food assistance, air quality updates and the status of service restorations such as water and electricity.

Then there are the residents of communities such as Lahaina and Kula who can no longer gain access to their homes. “Displaced people have moved out to areas like Kihei and Kahului and are living with relatives, or some are in hotels,” Walt Pacheco, Communications Coordinator with the Maui Police Department, told The Source. The second radio station is being set up now in the island’s major city, Kahului – one of four RadioSTAT systems currently at the Agency’s disposal.

See RadioWorld's story "Hawaii Puts AM Radio to Work on Maui -- The state has acquired four portable emergency advisory radio systems." Aug 22, 2023.
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Going Bigger October 2023
FCC Approving Larger, Higher Antennas for More Signal Coverage
Lake Almanor Installation Morgan County Installation 
Left to Right:  Volunteer Randy Damsen (NB6X) and Peninsula Fire Protection District’s Board Member Mark Burham (K6FEJ) assemble the RadioSAFE (HPR.0990) Antenna near Lake Almanor.   Photo Courtesy of Peninsula Fire Protection District  Tuning Morgan County's RadioSAFE Antenna
Photo Courtesy of Electronic Communication Systems, Inc.
LAKE ALMANOR CA, October 2023:  A new, expanded-coverage RadioSAFE system at Lake Almanor, California, will provide a signal intended to envelop the region in northern California with information that could be critical in the next emergency. In May an earthquake near the Lake rattled plenty of nerves. In recent years wildfires have approached the area and just missed, sparking the need for the service. Cellular coverage in the area is spotty; and if power is severed or turned off, residents may suddenly find themselves in an information desert.
Martinsville, IN, October 2023:  Morgan County, Indiana, is one of many communities seeking to cover the most real estate possible by requesting that FCC approve signal coverage and antenna height waivers for their RadioSAFE service. Previously the County operated a portable radio system that provided conventional coverage. Now, County safety officials are watching the April date rapidly approach when they expect throngs of eclipse tourists to descend on Southern Indiana to see the moon’s shadow go by. Radio will be an efficient way to reach out with safety information during the event.
ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC, October 2023:  Orangeburg County in South Carolina has announced it will be installing 12 RadioSAFE systems intended to blanket the region, which is prone to flooding. The recent passing of Hurricane Idalia in August pointed to the need for an emergency information system resilient enough to provide updates when grid power and conventional communications are lost.

FCC allows safety agencies to seek waivers of antenna height, signal coverage and other parameters for both new and existing Information Radio Stations. At present, more than two dozen such waivers have been granted, permitting licensees to cover more ground cost effectively.
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Communities Aim to Be "Radio Ready" before
the Next Round
 
Preparing for New, Vexing Variants amid "Regular" Emergencies, Agencies Leverage Grants to Add Radio to Communication Arsenals
CoordinatorStephen Shipman, Washoe County, Nevada
Photo Courtesy of Washoe County Department of Public Health
Santa Barbara County’s Roof-Mounted AM Broadcast Antenna
Photo by Tom Coviak
AUGUST 2021:  Cities and counties make ready for the next round of communication challenges that involve getting critical safety information to locals in their vehicles. Some are inbound to COVID facilities. Some are outbound due to evacuations. Others lack a better means of receiving critical information. But COVID grants, available to local governments to help better communicate with citizenry, are being utilized to fund localized AM radio systems intended to bolster public health and safety – perhaps more so now because no one knows what’s next.

Edgar Ruiz, Emergency Manager with the Park and Recreation in Broward County, Florida, recently brought onboard five portable RadioSTAT Systems to get information to locals lining up in cars for COVID shots at five county parks.

At the Upper Missouri District Health Unit in North Dakota, Executive Director Javayne Oyloe is distributing four RadioSTAT systems to her constituent counties in preparation for future situations. 

In July, the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) installed three RadioSAFE Broadcast Systems in the County’s challenging north county area, which includes communities such as Santa Maria, Solvang and Lompoc. Three more are planned for 2022. A spokesperson for the Agency tells The Source that the signals will be used for emergency preparation and for the ever-possible wildfire and earthquake evacuations. “And, of course, if we have future mass testing and vaccination operations,” they add. "The broadcasts are controlled via network (IP) from the County offices in Santa Barbara."

Communities in the County’s more populated “Front Country” area have operated similar systems for 20 years. The OEM intends to integrate these radio stations in Montecito, University of California Santa Barbara and San Marcos Pass into the new emergency radio network. “We have very limited egress from many of our communities,” an agency spokesman points out. "And especially when US-101 gets blocked by heavy traffic, there are very few ways to get into and out of places like Santa Barbara.” The 100,000 acre Thomas Fire in 2018, required the evacuation of the cities of Montecito and Carpentaria and the complete closure US Highway 101 for an extended period.

Just to the Southeast, the City of Malibu has also secured an AM frequency in the anticipation that it may be needed for evacuation information. US-101 is the only means of egress from Malibu, and based on the situation, drivers need minute-to-minute intel on the direction to drive that will yield the best result. If implemented, the City will employ a High Efficiency HPR.0990 Radio Antenna to effect wide-area signal coverage.

Washoe County, Nevada, which includes the City of Reno, had the foresight to obtain four portable Emergency Radio Systems on trailers a decade ago and has utilized them heavily of late during mass testing and vaccination efforts. Public Health Coordinator Stephen Shipman works beside his Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) Organization to deploy the units when and where needed.

The Bay Area Community of Fairfield, CA, has just been granted the emergency temporary authority to operate their city’s Information Station at a higher signal level than would normally be allowed. This special FCC license permits Communications Manager Bill Way to speak to motorists more effectively on Interstate 80, which bisects his community, when the presence of wildfires bring traffic to a crawl . Says Way, “After last years’ LNU Lightning Complex Fire, we determined an emergency radio broadcast would’ve increased our reach to all audiences, especially during an evacuation."

Not far from Fairfield, Placer County Radio Services Division rented an EventCAST Radio System for three months to inform citizens arriving at their vaccination site near Roseville. The County has submitted for funding to purchase a RadioSTAT Portable System that can roam their expansive county to assist with communications in future emergencies of all kinds. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in California took the same approach at vaccine distribution sites in Los Angeles and Oakland. Rental radio systems typically include a temporary FCC license that is specific to the application, and assistance with broadcast message production.
CA Emergency Managers Use Satellite Links for Evacuation Instructions to Car Radios and Outdoor Warning Speakers
JUNE 2022:  When the order comes to evacuate, what information source does the public trust? How can evacuees be certain they are not turning into an oncoming disaster instead of escaping it? Increasingly, emergency managers are looking to radio instead of relying solely on social media, which, history shows, has the potential to become a wildfire of its own.

In the February 2022 edition of Communication Review, a published study finds that the logistics of various social media platforms have a decidedly negative effect on the work of emergency managers and responders. The author details how in a crisis, social media information can become tangled with subjective accounts, outdated facts and heresay, inadvertently enhancing ambiguity instead of clarity. The result can be to increase public uncertainty at precisely the time that public resolve is required.

Some communities are embracing a novel form of radio technology to counter this effect so they can minimize “social media wildfires” and maintain control of communication channels:
Salinas CA River Fire
“River Fire” near Salinas, CA, 2020
Shutterstock Photo
Riverside County, California, was procuring more than 30 Genasys satellite-linked outdoor audio warning systems in the San Jacinto Mountains to direct evacuations during crises such as wildfires and earthquakes. The unique design would allow emergency managers to direct evacuees by radio (see more about RadioSAFE Systems), so when they enter their cars to escape, updated radio messages will direct their routes. The emergency radio, speaker sound and mass notification (email/text/phone) systems will be managed from a single control platform.
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Information Stations Prove Invaluable in California Wildfire Evacuations
SANTA BARBARA, CA, June 2022: Two significant wildfires in three weeks near Santa Barbara, California, tested the area’s Emergency Advisory Radio Stations’ ability to direct the public quickly out of harm’s way.

On October 17, a vegetation fire caused by downed power lines required the evacuation of Painted Cave, CA – a community that lost more than 400 homes and public buildings in a devastating fire in 1990. The nearby San Marcos Pass Information Station on AM 1040, operated by Mike Williams, broadcast critical fire and evacuation information continuously for residents as they lined up on Highway 154 to exit. In the end, all lives and structures were saved and the fire was contained to 44 acres.

Three weeks later, a similar fire in Montecito, California's, backcountry triggered emergency evacuation information to be broadcast on Montecito Fire Protection District’s Information Station on AM 1610. The San Marcos Pass station carried the evacuation information, as well. Fortunately, this fire was contained by late afternoon and residents returned to intact homes.

Stated Williams, “The use of low power radio in emergency situations proved invaluable. The ability to provide quick information to the public is essential during fast moving events such as wildfires.”
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Information Radio Station is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Station (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio (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.