To the Editor:
Public Information Distribution failures during the fires and smoke…
Major kudos to the firefighters, police, emergency services personnel, and all first responders who went far beyond the call of duty during the windstorm, fire conflagrations, and hazardous ash-filled days we just experienced. But how disappointing and shocking that the City of Newport failed to provide information to the public. Even the County’s excellent emails & website information required that people have access to electricity, internet, or smart phones and cell phone service. But electricity was cut, phone lines were down, and mobile phones lost their charge. Many coastal residents were in the dark — literally and figuratively – for days. We sat in our cars with the radio on, turning the knob hither and yon, hoping for news. Or we pulled out our hand-cranked radios stashed away for emergencies.
Radio signals originating from Portland and Eugene, and our own community station, KYAQ, were off the air. So imagine our frustration when there was nothing about the catastrophe being broadcast on the local stations. As far as I can tell, no information was released by the City of Newport in any form, using any media. No reports, no updates, no plans, no words of comfort. The City still hasn’t released a statement about what this community just went through or what it was doing behind the scenes.
Aren’t local AM stations traditionally the source of information during natural disasters and regional emergencies? Don’t they have an obligation to keep the public informed? Our local stations remained on the air, but they played mostly canned music and rarely provided news of substance. How close were the fires? Which roads were still open? Where could people find refuge?
I urge the staff of the City of Newport, Lincoln County, and our local radio stations to use these communication failures as a wake-up call to do better because there will be a next time.