Newstalk KBKW

BLOGEMD: EMS Keeps Up With The Times

Washington’s legacy delivery system, which uses the Washington State Patrol’s microwave relay system, remains in place in order to provide robustness and redundancy in delivering EAS messages.

In addition to incorporating new technology, EAS may need the help of state lawmakers to enhance broadcasters’ and cable systems’ ability to perform critical work during an emergency. Legislation enacted in Illinois and Nevada provides broadcast engineers and workers with special access to remote transmitter sites. This will allow them to maintain and repair key equipment, thus keeping critical broadcast stations and cable systems operational during and after a disaster. The same legislation also prioritizes fueling broadcast facilities’ backup generators during a disaster so transmitters can stay on the air to deliver life-and-property-saving information.

Another two developments that compliment EAS are worth noting: 

  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), a project initiated by the cellular industry and FCC, will deliver emergency messages directly to individual cell phones. It is coming online now. 
  • Broadcasters are working with carriers to produce cell phones with FM receiver chips installed and activated. This will further enhance emergency messaging via local FM radio stations when cellular systems are overwhelmed.

Washington’s EAS continues to evolve. It is a dynamic tool and each new wrinkle helps emergency management agencies, broadcasters and cable systems do a better job collectively of delivering life and property saving information in times of disaster.

The eruption of Mount St. Helens launched a new era of cooperation between broadcasters and emergency managers in Washington. It’s been three decades and we continue to enjoy an outstanding symbiotic relationship of mutual support and respect. Our residents are safer because of it. Not every state can say that.  

Clay Freinwald
Chair, Washington State Emergency Communications Committee

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