The Source
Issue Date • January 2014
EDITORIAL
NOAA News Is Bad News
New York's National Weather Radio Station Disappears, Reappears, Disappears Again – Just in Time for Snow Storm
Click image above to see full-size map.
The NOAA National Weather Radio Station (KWO35), which is a primary weather information source for the New York City area, went off the air without notice in July of 2013, leaving the nation’s largest city in the dark. No small amount of mystery surrounds the reason for the station’s troubles and when it will return to service for the residents, mariners and travelers who depend on it. This is especially the case in light of the FCC’s recent clarification that its rules for Information Radio Stations allow the rebroadcast of NOAA Weather Radio if local public safety officials deem the content to further the protection of life and property.
A National Weather Service representative had stated in emails to the New Jersey Borough of North Plainfield that “We will continue to place KWO35 back in operation … any time a life threatening weather hazard is forecast” and later explained “Through this upcoming [January] storm, the weather radio transmission will continue to be in flux with you receiving the signal, at times, but always.”

At times, but always? Is that a new federal doublespeak?

Sure enough, the station’s 162.55 MHz signal kicked in bright and early on January 2nd in advance of the big snow storm that socked the Northeast later that day. But by afternoon it was again AWOL, and remained that way throughout the storm. It remains off the air.

The reason for the difficulties, according to the National Weather Service, is an ”intermodulation” between NOAA’s transmission and another agency’s transmitter in the immediate area, which is resulting in interference on the Coast Guard’s Channel 16 – a channel used for international maritime distress calls. Technicians tell The Source that it is not clear why the interference suddenly appeared, since the transmitters involved have been in service on the same frequencies for years. The National Weather Service issued a statement December 15th, stating “We have installed a filter on the transmitter ... which reduced, but did not eliminate, this problem.” On January 6th, the National Weather Service acknowledged to Borough representatives by telephone that the agency has recently engaged a private firm to troubleshoot the problem.

In the meantime, the National Weather Service’s lack of service to the Big Apple is a big embarrassment.
Lee Hovis, Nocatee Operations Mgr 
Lee Hovis
Nocatee Operations Manager
Really Reaching Residents
Home Owner Associations Install
Information Radio Stations to Prepare for Emergencies
FLORIDA & CALIFORNIA: 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.

Strategically placed signs promote the station to residents and visitors.
The station's broadcasts 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 station's broadcasts 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. (Listen to a sample.) 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.

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 be licensed by the FCC to operate the service. Private community organizations such as Home Owner Associations (HOAs) can coordinate with a local unit of government (county, township, etc.) to operate a station.

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 the "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.”

Sun City Palm Desert Emergency Radio Team Leaders 
Sun City Palm Desert emergency broadcast team leader Chuck Holliman (left) with project and contract manager Mitch Meyer.  
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.

The Association’s Emergency Broadcast Radio Team (EBRT) is on call 24/7 and can activate
Riverside County Kicks Off New Radio Service 
Riverside County commissioner John Benoit (left) and Sun City Association president Steve Bailey inaugurate the new Information Radio service.
 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.
Florida DOT Asks
Permission to Nuzzle Up
FCC Considers Bending Rules to Allow Cozier Station Spacing
Florida DOT and the FCCThe Florida Department of Transportation wants to operate two Highway Advisory Radio Stations (TIS) on I-595 near Fort Lauderdale. Not a problem, except that the two stations would be located as close as 35 miles from the primary signal contour of a broadcast station in Marco Island, Florida, which is on the same frequency. Eighty miles is the "bear" minimum separation distance in FCC Rules (Part 90.242), which all operators have respected since the in-band TIS rules were adopted in the early 1990s.

The DOT is asking the FCC for a waiver to operate the stations at the closer distance, despite the interference potential, it says, citing non-technical reasons; asserting that the TIS stations would not be in the broadcast station's market area and that they could be used in a future hurricane evacuation plan. Perhaps sensing that granting the waiver would set a new precedent, the FCC is asking for comment.

To include your input, refer to Public Notice DA-14-42 in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System. Responses are due February 14. Read full text here of the Public Notice and learn how to submit your comments.
 
Letters to The Source
TIS IS COMPETITION?
TIS Filtering and the FCC“That 3-kHz TIS filter [on TIS Transmitters] is a joke! But the burning question is WHY is this filter [there] to begin with? Are the big money radio stations afraid of a TIS station as competition?

"PUH-LEEEZE!”

Jeff Laurence - Autumn Hill Studios, Franklin, NC
STATION FOR SALE
“Just wanted to let you know that I purchased a [pre-owned] Information Radio Station at public auction last Saturday. If you know of someone needing some or all of it, let me know.”

Dan - Wauseon, OH

Editor's Note: Contact Information Station Specialists to get pricing on this pre-owned package or individual components that comprise it. Included are transmitter, voice system, antenna system, cabinet, arrestors, etc., which may be used as spares for existing operators.
Community "Flamethrower"
“The Mayor has made our 'Flamethrower' [Information Station on 1630 AM] status official in his annual state-of-the-Borough message at last night's council meeting. He made reference to what the station has been able to accomplish through severe weather and his appreciation for this unique service in our town, referencing it as 'The Flamethrower.' He is a retired professional firefighter and understands the nature of emergencies and the necessity of getting accurate, vital information to the public.

Richard K. Phoenix - Borough Clerk, North Plainfield, NJ