March Emergency Management Issue - 2022  
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 Publisher:  Information Station Specialists
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Birmingham City Hall 
Birmingham's City Hall
Sweet Signal in Alabama
Downtown Birmingham Home to the Nation's Highest Emergency / Health Information Radio Antenna
Greg SilasBIRMINGHAM, AL:  The pandemic is not even in our rear view mirror yet, and now approaches the potential for severe power, communication and supply chain disruption that could result from a cyberattack. Greg Silas, Director of the Birmingham’s Emergency Communication District, is utilizing every tool at his disposal to be ready to keep citizens informed should that happen. One such tool is an Emergency Information Radio Station with arguably the largest footprint of any in the United States. On March 8th his district was granted permission by the FCC to operate the station’s transmitting antenna fulltime from atop Birmingham City Hall. The placement allows the antenna to top out at 229 feet – more than four times higher above the ground than rules normally permit.
Downtown Birmingham AL 
Downtown Birmingham has enhanced radio signal coverage from its new Emergency Information Radio Station on 1650 AM.
The special rule waiver also allows the city’s emergency information signal to be heard over a reception area six times larger than what is normally permitted: the city-grade (2.0 mV/m) signal will encompass 17 square miles, which will push out their primary grade (0.5 mV/m) signal to blanket nearly 150 square miles of Alabama heartland.

The enhanced signal is possible due to the newly available HPR.0990 Radio Antenna, which is many times more efficient than conventional antennas in its design class. The service, along with a solar-powered version with a portable changeable message sign, was used to provide directional and procedural information in association with local COVID clinics during the height of the health emergency.
Midland Radio 
Midland ER10VP
Emergency Radio Receiver
 
The result is a communication tool that the Birmingham community can utilize when a major disruption of any kind occurs. The city 911 center is backed up by generator power, and virtually everyone has access to an AM radio receiver with battery: those in cars use the vehicle battery as a backup; people without vehicles can use portable battery-operated receivers such as the Midland ER10VP  (AM / FM / NWS). The receiver is sensitive enough to pick up a wide range of AM / FM signals and can trigger on NOAA alerts as well. Special discounts are available on this receiver model from Information Station Specialists currently. Special discounts are available from Information Station Specialists for multiple purchases. Email for a quote.
Other communities recently granted rule waivers for increased height and/or signal intensity for their emergency AM stations: Beverly Hills, CA, Lincoln County, ME.*
WLW 
Emergency Studios at WLW in Cincinnati, OH. “The Big One” runs 50,000 watts on AM 700 and is one of the “modernized stations” in the National Public Warning System.
High Powered AM-band radio broadcast stations have been predominantly selected by FEMA to be the backbone of the National Public Warning System (NPWS) due to their massive geographic reach and the universality of the AM radio receiver. The 77 AM and FM radio stations in the NPWS system cover more than 90% of the US population and are in the process of upgrading their resiliency should a presidential alert be required. Emergency Information Stations similar to Birmingham’s operate at just a fraction of the wattage of a NPWS station but share some of the signal propagation characteristics afforded by AM methodology.


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(*) Communities that have received license waivers for increased signal and/or antenna height include:

Auburn, WA
Aurora, IL
Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management, PA
Bainbridge Island, WA
Ohio DOT (Geneva, OH)
Foresthill, CA
Longmont, CO
Lago Vista, TX
Mentor, OH
Peabody, MA
Portola Valley, CA

Twenty other locations are pending at this time.
Portable AM Radio Stations Prep to Deploy Statewide in Illinois
Mutual Aid Group Adds Six Portable RadioSTAT Systems and LED Signs to its Communications Arsenal
Urbana, IL:  Formed after the 9/11 attacks, The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) is a Public Agency of the State of Illinois created by various local law enforcement agencies pursuant to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act. ILEAS coordinates mutual aid - training, interoperability and emergency response resources - for more than 900 local government agencies in the state. It’s the largest such entity in the US. This spring ILEAS is bolstering its capabilities with the addition of six portable RadioSTAT emergency radio stations and LED sign systems for assignment to major incidents. The new resources will be staged regionally throughout Illinois for rapid roll out.
ILEAS exercise 
A Communications Exercise Coordinated by ILEAS
Spokesman Bill Springer tells The Source “There are lots of scenarios where we need to get critical information to the public and there is no other way to do it.” Springer explains that it is not uncommon that the incident itself (tornado, earthquake, etc.) will take down the very communication infrastructure that public safety agencies would normally leverage to push out information, such as the locations of relief supplies and shelter.
ILEAS logo 
Sometimes cellular capacities are overloaded in the vicinity of incidents as drivers seek directional assistance when encountering flooding or infrastructure failure. If health pandemics return to plague the Prairie State, the technology can be employed at mass vaccination, testing clinics, as well (example).

ILEAS is licensing AM frequencies 1620, 1650, 1670 and 1700 throughout Illinois for the new radio service, which commonly has a 3-5 mile signal range and can be received on vehicle radios.

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IPAWS CMS 
Do emergency / health managers need a portable IPAWS changeable message sign?
The Source publisher Information Station Specialists recently received an inquiry from a sheriff’s department with an interesting need: they wanted a small portable changeable message sign that could immediately interrupt scheduled messages to display IPAWS notifications, such as AMBER alerts or local weather warnings when issued. It needed to be able to operate via land power or a generator and be programmable via a wireless (cloud) connection on a lifetime contract so there would be no ongoing service costs.

Possible applications:
  • At an event to provide information to inbound patrons.
  • At a health screening / inoculation clinic.
  • On an evacuation or egress route to provide directional information.

The sign could be controlled from anywhere with an internet connection. Would such a product be useful? Let us know your thoughts with an email.

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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.