The Value of Travelers’ Information Radio Stations

9 01 2013

Travelers’ Information Stations are operated by governmental entities for the purpose of broadcasting information by low-wattage AM radio to the traveling public.  Fort Bend County operates 1670 AM, and other jurisdictions in Fort Bend County also operate such stations (Missouri City, Stafford, Sugar Land); sometimes referred to simply as “TIS.”  Agencies operating a TIS must be licensed, operate in the AM Broadcast Band; are limited to a 10 watt transmitter output tower; and may not transmit commercial information.

Fort Bend County belongs to the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO).  AAIRO is comprised of 346 members, consisting of government agencies and associated individuals in the public safety community in the United States.  For several years, AAIRO has advocated for changes in the regulations governing TIS;  the organization is requesting specific changes to FCC regulations so that such stations are authorized to broadcast critical weather and safety information to the traveling public in advance of, during, and following disasters and emergencies.  By doing so, TIS can assist in mitigating the loss of life and property.

It is hoped that the FCC will take into account the experiences of coastal communities in New Jersey that experienced severe weather during the landfall of Hurricane Sandy last year.  As you will see below, these AM radio stations became the primary source of information for citizens during and after the storm due to the failures of other means of communication.  As reported in The Source newsletter, October 2012, here is the story of what occurred in Manasquan, New Jersey:

Withstanding Sandy

Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore south of this New Jersey coastal community on October 29. Ninety MPH winds pushed a wall of water into flood-prone Manasquan, causing massive flooding. Emergency Manager Chris Tucker tapped his Information Radio Station on AM 1620 to be the solitary source to keep residents apprised, with the anticipation that “data and internet connections might be compromised.” They were. Additionally, his station’s antenna system encountered enormous winds and was engulfed by 3 feet of storm surge. It kept working. The station’s battery backup – occasionally charged via generator – powered the station continuously through the storm.

Manasquan operates an Alert AM Information Radio Station with a hurricane wind rated antenna system, designed to withstand gusts of up to 150mph. Several flashing alert signs are positioned on local roads to alert motorists.
Manasquan001
Eighty miles downshore near Sandy’s landfall, Police Chief Robert Matteucci of North Wildwood, NJ, utilized his 1640 signal to protect life and property. The signal remained on the air throughout the storm. The broadcast
, which was simulcast to the Internet, advised residents how to find assistance and provided emergency numbers for electric and gas companies. The internet stream was monitored by more than 1000 people in nine states, some as far away as California. Internet listeners to North Wildwood’s stream logged more than 14,400 minutes the day Sandy made landfall.
Manasquan002
Manasquan’s and North Wildwood’s Information Radio Stations comprise but 2 of more than 40 stations installed in NJ in the past 10 years to protect citizens’ lives/property in a disaster.

At North Plainfield, NJ, operator Rich Phoenix comments, “Only radio stations and battery or crank-powered receivers will survive [during a disaster]. Local information is king; and the TIS stations are top of the heap.”

AAIRO’s Petition Docket 09-19 for rulemaking as been under consideration by the FCC for a very long time with no action being taken by the FCC.  Many communities across the nation, including many along the coast in New Jersey, have written letters to the FCC supporting the AAIRO position.  Now is the time, that the FCC revise TIS content rules to specifically state that weather forecasts (e.g. NOAA radio rebroadcasts), warnings, and emergency preparedness information can be broadcast at any time— before, during, and after a disaster—as a means of mitigating loss of life and damage to property.





On This Date: March 24, 1989

24 03 2011

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when the oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound”s Bligh Reef and spilled about 11 million US gallons of crude oil.  It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters.  As significant as the Valdez spill was—the largest ever in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill—it ranks well down on the list of the world’s largest oil spills in terms of volume released. However, Prince William Sound’s remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane and boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals  and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, eventually covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean.





Governor Perry Announces Formation of Gulf Project

6 07 2010

Governor Perry is forming a coalition to help ensure that the State of Texas is prepared to respond to a large-scale oil spill.  The News Release issued by the Office of the Governor on July 6, 2010 is found below.  The purpose of the project is to make sure Texas never endure the environmental and economic disaster currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

Governor Perry today announced the formation of the Gulf Project, a coalition of energy and environmental scientists, policy experts, academic researchers, private sector research scientists and state officials who will work to ensure Texas never endures the environmental and economic disaster currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

“To keep our status as the energy capital of the nation and preserve our environment, jobs and economy, Texas must become the world leader in developing the next generation in offshore oil exploration safety and response,” Gov. Perry said. “The Gulf Project is an unprecedented collaboration of the state’s top scientists, engineers and researchers, focused on protecting our residents, environment and economy, and solving the unique challenges presented by the next generation of domestic energy exploration and production.”

The University of Texas, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Rice University, Texas Tech University, Southern Methodist University, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), Texas General Land Office and Texas Railroad Commission are participating in the effort, and other experts and institutions of higher education may join later.

A key challenge for the industry is the current inability to test full drilling systems to determine their safety, and to develop proven methods of responding to large-scale oil spills such as the Deepwater Horizon incident. Other nations including the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil are competing to develop a seafloor testing facility.

Each participating institution is already involved in significant oil and gas drilling research, and already have the facilities – such as Texas A&M’s Offshore Research Technology Center and Rice’s National Corrosion Center – but none is able to test a full drilling system to ensure it can safely operate under all deep sea conditions. Additionally, the Johnson Space Center is home to facilities that can test the safety and reliability of current and next generation equipment, which could be used as research proceeds. 

Governor Perry believes domestic oil and gas exploration remains critical to meeting the nation’s energy needs. Texas’ energy industry continues to fuel the nation, supplying 20 percent of the nation’s oil production, one-fourth of the nation’s natural gas production, a quarter of the nation’s refining capacity, and nearly 60 percent of the nation’s chemical manufacturing. Additionally, Texas’ energy industry employs 200,000 to 300,000 Texans, with $35 billion in total wages.





Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico

13 06 2010

Though Fort Bend County is not directly threatened by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many of our citizens are keenly interested in what is taking place to resolve the crisis.  Many of our residents work for energy companies, firms heavily tied to the energy industry, or businesses that are dependent on the seafood that comes from the Gulf of Mexico.  For the most up-to-date information, the best place on the Internet to click on is the official site of the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command.

A Unified Command has been established to manage response operations to the April 20, 2010 “Deepwater Horizon” incident. A Unified Command links the organizations responding to an incident and provides a forum for those organizations to make consensus decisions. This site is maintained by the Unified Command’s Joint Information Center (JIC), which provides the public with reliable, timely information about the response.

To date, those agencies involved in the Unified Command include BP, NOAA, US Department of Defense, USGS, Transocean, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish & Wildlife Service, CDC, US Coast Guard, US Department of Homeland Security, National Park Service, OSHA, Minerals Management Service, US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of State.

Here is the link:  http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/site/2931/