Lincoln City and Newport – Fighting Disasters with information – getting it right the first time – every time!
Lincoln City Councilors Monday took another look-back on the horrific fire that destroyed hundreds of houses up toward Echo Mountain off Highway 18. The council has had some time to reflect on everything about that fateful week not that long ago. Many blame the power company for not turning the power off which allowed live, flame popping powerlines to fall to the ground and start grass, brush and tree fires contributing to the burning many of homes in the process.
The council heard testimony from city law enforcement who admitted that communications between law enforcement, fire departments, city hall and the citizens of Lincoln City were rather dysfunctional. Residents up Highway 18 began fleeing the area as well as residents in northern areas of Lincoln City because the fire was moving so fast. Unfortunately the power was out so there were scant cellphone service and the internet was down. So for many residents trying to make it to safer ground they became trapped not far from their homes. They couldn’t even see Highway 101.
It was a major problem that slowed everything down and kept many people trapped in their cars. It also became an utter failure of the local news media to broadcast or print what people should do to save themselves and their property.
City Councilors Monday admitted that local governments and their agencies weren’t prepared to handle such a fast moving fire. They knew it was coming but they were stuck in place. Emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances were coming up the road to put out the fires and help save lives. But it felt to many citizens like it was all happening faster than they could get out of there.
The city council thought long and hard about tactics that could change the outcome if a similar fire ever breaks out again along Highway 18 – or 101 for that matter.
City Councilors tossed around a lot of ideas about how to mitigate another large fire but the key is that if residents are to stay ahead of the flames, they’ve got to be able to load their cars sooner and faster and not get caught in miles of stalled traffic. That requires information – EARLY and often. But they didn’t get it because those who needed the information didn’t have electricity, couldn’t hear a radio, didn’t have cell-service, and didn’t have the internet. But they could have if Lincoln County had a competent emergency warning system that EVERYONE could hear over battery powered radios. Everyone getting INFORMATION at the same time!!
Again, keeping in mind that people are fleeing a dangerous threat. They want out and they want out fast. Early warnings over two of Lincoln County’s top AM radio stations could easily distribute valuable time and life-saving information to keep residents ahead of the flames.
Here’s how it’s done. Local governments come together and invite Lincoln County’s two most strategically placed AM radio stations to come to the table. Not FM…AM…like the old days. In this case one is KNPT in Newport and the other is KBCH in Lincoln City. Both are critically important in that the information distributed to the public MUST be absolutely accurate. The communities don’t need crazy rumors of what might be going on – they need THE FACTS so they know what to do and where to go.
Here’s how the system would work. Law enforcement, fire fighters and ambulance teams are usually first on scene of fires and other disasters. They use their car or hand-held radios, describe what’s going on around them and radio their information to the outside world. They would contact official personnel, by two way radio with the two AM radio stations and provide life saving information DIRECTLY! The personnel at the radio stations, equipped with police/fire hand-held radios (inside or in their vehicles), would write down the information and give it to a live radio announcer who quickly gives the information to the listening public who have their battery powered radios tuned to the radio stations. Instant information about escape routes should be pouring in to the ears of those who need it desperately. No second guessing, no inaccurate opinions. Just straight information from our valiant officers and firefighters directly to emergency personnel standing by at the radio stations.
Back in the day this is how things used to work. They called it the Emergency Broadcast System – EBS. These regular AM stations become the “live source” of information. Law enforcement and fire battalion chiefs pass on, through their radios, information directly to their fellow emergency services personnel standing by at the radio stations – ready to pass the information to the public over the radio station.
You might ask, well, why can’t FM radio stations do it? They can, but their transmitters are almost always on top of a big mountain with miles and miles of power lines bringing electricity to the transmitter. If the power lines fail, it’s a long way up the mountain even if you can get electricity back in the power lines. But emergency information can be relayed to the public a lot faster and more reliably buy using AM radio stations with tall radio towers on site with a hefty diesel or gas powered generator right outside the radio station. You never run out of electricity because you never run out of fuel. You just order more fuel depending on how long a disaster lasts.
Another advantage of AM radio stations over FM stations is that FM broadcasts at very high frequencies which makes their signals very fragile. They don’t look around corners and over the tops of mountains like AM radio signals do. And as long as residents have a battery powered hand-held radio, tuned to KNPT or KBCH, they can get all their information directly from official sources which calms everybody down so they can all work more confidently together – whether they’re dealing with an earthquake, a hurricane, tornado, nasty storms, you-name-it.
Effective communications to ALL PEOPLE during an emergency is vitally important. PRIMARY sources through police, firefighters, city hall, National Weather Service and all the others helps everyone feel good about getting ACCURATE information. Law enforcement and fire services are the life’s blood of any community and when their information is instantly given to their hometown AM radio station, everybody’s happy. They’re getting all the right information. It saves time, saves money, and saves lives. Only AM radio is absolutely reliable because everything needed to spread the news during stressful times is to have everything in ONE LOCATION and to broadcast that information to everyone who has battery powered radios – big and small.
It’s easy, it’s simple, it doesn’t cost a lot of money and it can save a lot of lives.