As we continue to pull ourselves out from under our horrific battle with the Echo Mountain Fire, as well as fires all around Oregon, it’s time to admit local governments failed to adequately communicate with residents…”adequate” as in TIMELY and reliable contact with the public.
When electricity, cell phone towers and the internet are down, most residents may as well be on the dark side of the Moon. For everyone to maintain contact with emergency services and announcements, we have to “Go Back to the Future”…A-M Radio…so that those with battery powered radios, in homes and in cars, can get the latest up-to-the-minute emergency information to EVERYONE…ALL AT THE SAME TIME! No more “second and third hand information,” no rumors dressed up like “the truth.”
Years ago, before the internet and cell phones, American families relied on what was called The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). Local (AM) radio stations would switch their programming to relay to the public, whatever threat there was to the community – be it a flood, tornadoes, forest fires, earthquake, tsunami or some other natural or man-caused disaster. The radio announcer would transform the radio station’s role from entertainment to life saving information. They all had a plan and they carried it out – ensuring that those who had battery powered portable radios (and just about everybody had them) vital information about the disaster would reach the ears of every family, individual and business with VALID, REAL INFORMATION instead of rumors. And information updates were instant! INSTANT!! Over the airwaves – not through through 3rd, 4th or 5th party rumor mills. Emergency workers in the field would use their hand-held TWO-WAY RADIOS, or TWO-WAY RADIOS inside their police cars, fire trucks or other vehicles to contact the radio station and tell them what’s going on. Radio station volunteers also equipped with hand-held TWO WAY RADIOS, would write down the information and run it down the hall to the broadcast studio where the information would be immediately broadcast to THE WHOLE COMMUNITY ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!
Now – here’s the clincher! If there’s no power, phone or internet service, how does the radio station get its electricity so it can broadcast life saving information to those with battery powered radios? Easy! PORTABLE-DIESEL-(OR GAS)-ELECTRICAL GENERATORS with a lot of fuel in large underground tanks right outside the radio station building. That fuel is just waiting to be used to generate electricity for the radio station. In “the olde days,” after World War II, AM radio stations used to run weekly tests of “The Emergency Broadcast System.” All it was was a fuel tank in the ground hooked to a generator that burned the fuel that made the power that made the radio station be heard over a huge area. And the information was official, verified and life-saving. Totally rumor free.
Again, it’s a “Back-to-the-Future” kind of technology, but it’s been proven to work time and time again – simply and efficiently. We haven’t heard about this old-“new” way of looking at information distribution because we’ve increasingly relied on cellphone towers, power lines and the internet all of which are the first communication systems to fail.
Disaster + AM radio station + generator + citizens with battery powered radios = informed communities. And you don’t have to buy anything. Everything is in place. Even if the radio station broadcast towers collapse we can whip out a big roll of broadcast wire, fed by a radio transmitter impedance matching-box and tie it to a tall tree and THAT will broadcast the signal. The radio signal many not be as strong, but it’ll be strong enough.
Disasters create isolated, scared-to-death people. AM radio emergency broadcasts lowers everybody’s blood pressure.