The Source
Issue Date • August 2013
Indiana Health Departments Get Emergency Advisory Radio Stations
Hoosier Health Departments Prepare for Next Pandemic
Indianapolis and Surrounding Counties Will Employ information radio at PODs
INDIANAPOLIS, IN: New FCC Rules that will govern information radio (TIS) stations make it clear that any “imminent threat to safety of life” is grounds to broadcast content intended to protect the public. It is on that basis that Indiana’s District 5 Local Health Department Group applied for and received a grant that allows them to deploy eight RadioSTAT Emergency Broadcast Stations at future Points of Dispensing (PODs) in Central Indiana.

The portable RadioSTAT System has been in use nationally since 2007 to get critical information to motorists who are lining up at PODs to receive vaccine injections. Content commonly includes directions to POD site locations, wait times, hours of operation and details of the process intended to calm attendee concerns. Portable Changeable Message Signs (PCMS), pictured below, inform drivers of the special radio frequency as they line up for treatment.

Indiana’s District 5 Local Health Departments support public health emergency activities in Marion County (Indianapolis) and the seven contiguous counties. The Health Department’s goal is to exercise the new equipment and improve preparedness plans for all hazards including pandemic influenza.
Indiana's Portable Changeable Message Sign
Portable Changeable Message Signs announce the special radio frequency to incoming motorists arriving to receive treatment in Indianapolis.
Praise and Perplexity
Historic Revision of TIS Rules Meets Broad Approval with Emergency Managers, Raises Questions
WASHINGTON, DC:  Across the US, public safety officials are applauding the FCC’s proposed new rules and attendant clarifications contained in the Report & Order released in July. A comment period is underway right now. The American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) is encouraging all interested public safety officials to submit a comment letter to the Association for filing.
FCC logo

The new rules will take effect on September 18, 2013. Here's a summary of the major changes and clarifications:

  1. Content on the stations must (continue to) relate to travel, emergencies or an “imminent threat to the safety of life or property."
  2. The station licensee has discretion “regarding the use of the service” and is in the “best position to determine what constitutes an imminent threat to the safety of life or property” given his/her “intimate knowledge of local conditions.”
  3. NOAA Weather Radio rebroadcasting and other weather-related content is allowed as long as it “relates to an existing or potential hazard.”
  4. Simulcast systems of transmitters are allowed as long as the content is relevant “in the vicinity of each transmitter in the network” and it is left to the “discretion of the license holder to determine relevancy.”
  5. FCC invites comments (due 9/18/2013) regarding the removal of the audio filters on TIS transmitters. These filters have been part of the service since the beginning, and limit the audio frequency response to 3000 Hz, removing the higher frequencies.

One part of the Report and Order that has generated many comments is the FCC’s assertion that broadcast of “routine weather [forecast] information” would “dilute the effectiveness” of the service. FCC content rules currently provide for the broadcast of “travel advisories”; but the FCC clarifies that a weather forecast would not constitute a travel advisory, while the report of a weather hazard would. AAIRO’s position is that even a fair-weather forecast is very helpful, allowing a motorist to plan travel when visibility is good and winds are low (for example); and adverse weather is not likely to cause travel delays or problems that result in traffic congestion.

The Report and Order detailing the proposed new rules for Information Stations (Travelers Information Stations TIS) was published in the Federal Register on Monday, August 19, which sets the 30-day comment response deadline at Wednesday, September 18. If you wish an easy way to submit a comment for filing with the FCC, The Source published guidance on the topic last month.

Information Station Specialists Turns 30
In Its Prime at 30
A History of information radio service

ZEELAND, MI: Information Station Specialists, which began in the midst of a national recession back in 1983, overcame the economics of the times to build a proven record of service in today's niche market of Information Radio Systems, (TIS/HAR), Advisory Signage and related technical services.

Says founder Bill Baker, “Our long history in this industry is something that we hope will benefit others. The experience has helped us improve how public officials can communicate with the public to save lives and property in an increasingly dangerous world.”

Indeed. In 30 years under the same name and ownership, Information Station Specialists has become the recognized brand in the industry. Each employee averages more than 17 years of experience with the technology, something unheard of by today’s standards. Yet, maintaining the status quo has not been Information Station Specialists’ secret to success. Instead, it has been innovation: from specialized antenna and audio delivery systems to unique services that include lifetime support, audio recording, internet streaming, portable stations and radio station rentals for events. See notable 'firsts.'

Baker’s philosophy is that stability is important – especially in the electronics business – where change is perpetual. “Buyers want to know you will be there to assist with their operations 5 or 10 years down the road, because our product’s expected life is more than 20 years." The company, reachable at the same address and phone number since 1986, still offers 24/7 operational support for products provided in the very beginning. The assistance is available ongoing, which is particularly reassuring to emergency managers whose Information Radio Systems alert motorists during hurricanes, wildfires and the like.

Information Stations (TIS/HAR) are licensed by government agencies such as emergency managers, public health officials, national parks, transportation authorities and universities. Each station can be either fixed or portable and provides local information across 25-75 square miles. The company also offers license-free stations that are employed to broadcast a broader range of content over a quarter-mile range. Road signs – many with flashing beacons - alert motorists to tune to specific AM frequencies to receive the broadcasts. Associated products – portable power supplies, internet streaming services and professional recording services - have been added to the offering in recent years. The company’s products and services are found at theRADIOsource.com.

Information Station Specialists has earned its positive reputation since its humble beginning in 1983. Says founder Bill Baker “You do a lot of learning in your teens and twenties and at 30 you’re are just reaching your prime.”

See a cursory list and map of Emergency Advisory Radio stations across the United States.