Other Case Studies
 Publisher:  Information Station Specialists
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Nocatee Florida and Sun City Palm Desert California January 2014
Community Development Districts & Home Owner Associations Use Micro Stations to Reach Residents
The below examples illustrate how information radio is making its way deeper and deeper into communities via HOAs, CDDs and other grassroots efforts to help ensure that property owners have as much time and pertinent information as possible to prepare for disasters and stay in touch with local circumstances. Collaboration with local governments on funding and FCC licensing not only moves the projects forward but also builds community.
On a good day, Lee Hovis talks to visitors and homeowners as they navigate the North Florida Resort Community “Nocatee” about how to participate in events and take advantage of the area’s amenities. On a bad day, Hovis may be advising residents how to take steps to ride out an approaching hurricane. It’s all made possible through an innovative Information Radio service appropriately named “Nocatee Radio.” Residents and visitors receive the 1630 kHz radio signal on their car radios within a 3-5 mile radius of the community.

The station’s broadcasts (hear sample) are designed to direct visitors and homeowners to venues in the community, such as, the new water park, bike trails, neighborhood developments, community center and emergency services. The District is developing a plan to utilize the radio service to reach residents during the next emergency, when power outages could restrict their ability to gain access to news and information via the Internet, cable/TV and other methods that depend upon electricity.

Lee Hovis, the Community Development District’s operations manager, states, “This radio service is getting a lot of praise. And, within the next few months, I will even be able to update the broadcasts from my computer at home.” The station’s programming, is currently controlled on the District’s Ethernet network.

Because Nocatee is organized as a Community Development District (CDD) – a unit of government under Florida law – it can hold its own FCC license for the service. Private community organizations such as Home Owner Associations (HOAs) must coordinate with a local unit of government (county, township, etc.) to obtain a license.

The first private community on record to initiate an information radio service was the Pine Mountain Club Property Owners Association in 1999. Located just south of Bakersfield, California, and situated right on the San Andreas Fault, the Pine Mountain Club station keeps residents apprised of earthquake events, which, according to operator Bob Clark, “Is something we, in California, have to deal with…”

In 2004, the Wildland Residents Association near Santa Barbara, California, began a similar service called the “San Marcos Pass Emergency Radio Service (SMPERS),” which has been called into action numerous times to inform residents evacuating neighborhoods in advance of approaching wildfires. See "Putting Out Fires" article. States association president Michael Williams, “When the power goes out, telephone lines are down, there are no computers and everything stops, this system allows anyone to turn on the radio to hear emergency advisories.”

The first example of a gated community implementing an information radio service is Del Webb’s Sun City Palm Desert Association in Southern California. The development covers 1,600 acres and has 4,995 homes and 9,000 residents in season. The Association recently installed an information radio station managed by a team of resident volunteers.

According to team leader Chuck Holliman, a power outage in the summer 2011 made obvious the need for the station. “Many residents of our desert community lost both air conditioning and communications – and therefore were unable to learn about emergency cooling centers available to them. This radio station allows us to provide essential information to our residents in future emergencies.” The station is powered by the Association’s generator should grid power be lost.

Installed in 2013, the Association’s Emergency Broadcast Radio Team is on call 24/7 and can activate prerecorded radio messages stored in the station’s memory that match specific threats that might impact the community: earthquake, flooding, wildfire and power outage. Once the threat is better known, the team can broadcast live programming and record special updates to keep residents and visitors apprised. See Sun City Palm Desert news release.

Because the 1620 kHz signal can be received for miles outside the property boundaries, locals in their cars or with battery-powered radio receivers can learn if they may safely return home after an incident has occurred. This is a real possibility in a desert community where flash flooding, wildfires and earthquakes can sever transportation lines or otherwise make travel unsafe for an extended period of time.

Sun City Palm Desert Association operates the information radio station in conjunction with the Riverside County Fire Department, the FCC licensee for the service.
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Information Radio Stations is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Stations (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio Stations (HAR) / Highway Information Systems & Low Power Radio Stations (LPR). Operation of the stations is governed by FCC Part 90.242 Rules. A FCC license is required. Information Radio Stations may be fixed or portable. Subcomponents may include transmitter, antenna and ground system, digital voice player, wattmeter, cabinet with conventional or Corbin locks, lightning arrestors for RF, power and telephone lines, coaxial cable. Most stations employ black maximized antennas to discourage ice accumulation and security measures to prevent unauthorized program access. Options include synchronization, battery backup, solar power, remote programming by local, network or telco, multi-station audio distribution via RF or LAN / WAN or wireless network.