February 2015 Issue  
 Publisher:  Information Station Specialists
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Blizzard Broadcasts Buffer the Blast
New England towns maintain constant contact with citizens by radio, even as snow stacks up and power goes down.
“We’ve been in a constant snow emergency since the first big storm in January!” Jim Morin, Peabody, MA.
BOSTON, MA: One thing a New Englander instinctively knows: When it really counts, you have to first count on yourself.

Perhaps that is why Public Safety officials in the region have recently gone about installing community Information Radio Stations (TIS) to maintain a direct emergency link to the public, should power go out and communication get severed.

Twenty-two such stations have been planned or installed by towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire (see map below). These radio services were lifesavers during the recent onslaught of winter fury that whipped communities relentlessly with storm-force winds and feet – not inches - of snow. Coastal flooding occurred from New Jersey to Maine. Power outages were common. On the Island of Nantucket, MA, thousands shivered without electricity as 70-mph wind gusts that knocked out service.

Northeast of Boston, in the Town of Peabody, the police and public works departments teamed up to broadcast information on AM 1640 regarding parking restrictions that are critical for residents to adhere to, so daily plowing operations can proceed. Jim Morin of Peabody advises, “We’ve been in a constant snow emergency since the first big storm in January!”

At Westford, Masssachusetts, northwest of Boston, public safety officials broadcast instructions to the public 24/7 on AM 1630 regarding a statewide emergency travel ban, school closures and safety messages about carbon monoxide and requests for assistance locating fire hydrants.

South of the City in Sharon, Massachusetts, station operator Chuck Levine relates, “During the first storms we switched to an emergency playlist which allowed Police, Fire, DPW and Civil Defense to record [broadcast] messages. During the blizzards, we switched to a 911 message, alerting the public to the dangers inherent in the extreme cold and specific emergency phone numbers. The flexibility of the radio [station] did make it easier to keep the residents informed.”

At Holden, Massachusetts, Fire Chief and EM Director Jack Chandler filed for a FCC Special Temporary License (STA) to operate his newly acquired portable RadioSTAT information station during the storms if needed.                                                                      
Bedford, Massachusetts, Fire Chief Dave Grunes comments, "We have found the AM radio works well in times of large area power outages and with a specific audience that does not rely on the Internet for their daily news. Included in this audience is a portion of our senior population."

In Westbrook, Connecticut, Emergency Manager Don Izzo is in the final planning stages for his community’s radio service, which he expects to put on the air later this year. “If we had our station in operation,” he states, “we would have been broadcasting road conditions, whom to call if power is disrupted and websites and social media to access for additional information.” Izzo also plans to use the service to remind residents to check on neighbors and those with special needs and to continue to do that after storms subside. He anticipates that the station will be helpful when Nor’easters batter the area, flooding the coastal areas of his town.

In adjacent New Jersey and New York, Information Radio Stations prepared residents for emergency conditions in case they materialized. In Madison, New Jersey, Mayor Bob Conley himself addressed citizens to drive home the safety concerns. The state of New Jersey has the largest concentration of the stations in the nation, due to the dense population, the region’s propensity for flooding and its proximity to Manhattan.

The impetus to install Travelers Information (TIS) radio stations for public safety received a boost in 2013, when the FCC clarified its regulations regarding emergency content. In the ruling, made at the request of the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) and others, the Commission stated that any messages related to situations in which life or property face imminent danger may be aired. They went on to make it clear that local emergency managers would determine what constituted situations of imminent danger for their communities.

At present there are nearly a thousand Information Radio Stations licensed across the United States. In addition to being on the air, many of these stations also simulcast their programming to the Internet (StreamCAST) so the programming can be better received indoors and by concerned citizens and family outside the immediate area. Licenses for the service are available on a first-come-first-served basis. You may contact Bill Baker at Information Station Specialists to learn more about obtaining a license for your community.
 Continued above, right.  
Licensed Information Stations in New England (yellow). Proposed stations (blue). Dozens more broadcast storm-related information in adjacent New York and New Jersey.
Connecticut Massachusetts New Hampshire
Glastonbury Auburn Natick Derry
Manchester Bedford Peabody  
West Hartford Brimfield Sharon  
Westbrook (proposed) Gardner Southbridge  
  Groton Spencer  
  Holden Sterling  
  Hull Westborough  
  Leominster Westford  
  Milford Worcester County  
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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.