March 2021 Issue
Newsletter Index  Publisher:  Information Station Specialists Subscribe to The Sources
Alexa Advisories?
Smart speakers offer a new way to reach the public with emergency, health, safety and travel info.
LEXINGTON / FAYETTE COUNTY, KY: One hundred thousand vehicles fly down Interstate 75 each day in Central Kentucky, largely unaware of the Bluegrass Army Depot less than seven miles east of the highway. Our nation’s entire stockpile of chemical nerve agents is being neutralized there -- right now. The waste products from the destruction process will be trucked to a destruction site, on local highways.
Amazon Smart Speakers
on Display at a Retail Store
Emergency managers at adjacent Lexington / Fayette County are ready. In recent years they have developed every conceivable means of communicating with the public – including five synchronized Information Radio Stations that blanket the County and the I-75 / 64 corridor. The updated programming can be accessed not only via the car radio and simulcast web-links but now through Amazon’s smart speakers as well. “Alexa Advisories” are a new means of linking programming to people in their homes – and even to people in vehicles that are connected.
Amazon Alexa Logo
The cost of the total program is less than $4 per day, which makes the methodology an attractive one, especially considering that internet-based audio listening is generally on the increase. The annual “Share of Ear” report just released by Edison Research indicates that listening to audio programming on mobile internet-connected devices has increased to rival conventional AM / FM radio levels in the last year.

Cupertino, California, has recently joined Lexington, plugging Alexa advisories into their public information toolkit; two other California cities, Fairfield and Lake Forest, just announced that they will be instituting the service in 2021.

Below, find the invocation statements you can “say” to trigger the Cupertino and Lexington programming streams on your smart speakers. You can also monitor the audio delivered at a COVID testing site in Allen County, Ohio.
Ask Alexa what’s going on in a community near you:

Cupertino, CA (Radio StreamCAST)
“Alexa, open current information for Cupertino Radio.”

Lexington/Fayette County, KY (Radio StreamCAST)
“Alexa, open current information for Lexington Emergency Management.”

Allen County, OH (FlashCAST - Demo)
"
Alexa, open current information for Allen County COVID test site.”
 How It Works
Operators of Information Radio Stations link their program streams to the internet using the StreamCAST service. Agencies and groups that don’t use radio, instead upload audio files for continuous delivery. The result is the same – a continuous flow of current information that can be undated instantly and monitored on links virtually anywhere. The link addresses can be placed on webpages and pushed out in emails and texts though mass notification methods. Alexa Advisories provide a means of accessing the StreamCAST and FlashCAST programming via home smart speakers and from connected cars.

Some key advantages specific to the FlashCAST service: content can be sponsored to defray costs; there are no hardware or license requirements; FlashCAST technology is available to all groups, individuals and agencies, governmental, private and nonprofit.
HearMoreInfo
Information Station Specialists makes these services available under the “HearMoreInfo” Internet-Delivered Audio banner
UCHealth Mass Vaccination Clinic at Coors Field Parking Lots on January 30-31
The EventCAST radio antenna was positioned on the roof of a Colorado Rockies parking structure overlooking the site.
"Hit me with your best shot."
Radio "Vaccination Stations" are informing the incoming nationwide.
DENVER, CO: January 30 and 31, Denver’s Coors Field hosted a most unusual event: 10,000 Denver-area drivers lined up for in-car COVID-19 inoculations in parking lots normally designated for Colorado Rockies' baseball fans. UCHealth, the event host, transmitted bilingual instructions and directions from atop the Rockies’ parking garage under a special emergency temporary license obtained by the Denver Police Department. Listen to the broadcast.

SCL Health replicated the effort a mere mile to the northeast at the National Western Complex just off I-70 on the first weekends in February and March. Just announced: California's Office of Emergency Services, in conjunction with Caltrans, will set up two identical vaccination radio stations using EventCAST technology – one at the Oakland Coliseum on AM 1670 and one in Los Angeles on the Cal State Campus on AM 1680.

In Adams County, Illinois, the Emergency Management Agency has been reaching out to citizens arriving at the County’s drive-thru vaccine distribution site since early January. Director John Simon states that the use of radio technology frees staff for other tasks and also ensures that all arrivals receive the same, consistent, approved instructions. To encourage people to get the shot, the County wants the experience to be as efficient as possible.

Simon’s agency utilizes a VoiceStar System – a trailer-based radio station that incorporates an integral changeable message sign to direct those in line to the 1620 frequency. “Voicestar is THE key resource to what has been referred to as the national model for vaccine delivery,” states Simon. “This is not just my opinion but was said by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker in the press conference in Quincy [after his recent tour of Simon’s facility]. Honestly, the VoiceStar System was the thing that impressed him the most.”

Jerrod Welch, the County Health Administrator, adds, “This station allows my staff to focus on the individual patients that are getting their vaccines."
 
Portable FASTrack Sign announces Information Radio frequency for those arriving at Oakland Coliseum parking lots for vaccine. System setup by Caltrans in conjunction with CA Office of Emergency Services.    Photo by Matt Johns Adams County, Illinois, utilizes a solar-powered radio station with changeable message sign to inform.
The same methodology is deployed in Birmingham, Alabama, on AM 1630, where Emergency Communication District Director Greg Silas rotates their VoiceStar system between vaccination sites. Silas is placing a permanent station in the downtown area, as well.

Other agencies employ portable radio systems in weatherproof cases (InfOspot and RadioSTAT), which can be transported to a site and deployed, along with quick-erect signage. This radio methodology has gained traction nationally in recent weeks. One health district in Tennessee is running nine different radio signals simultaneously at various points of vaccine distribution (PODs). Their English / Spanish presentations are intended to provide procedural and directional information for arriving motorists at the drive-thru events.

RadioSTAT, EventCAST and VoiceStar products are licensed under FCC Part 90 and have a 3-5 mile radius of coverage. The InfOspot system operates under FCC Part 15 rules and requires no license. It is adept at parking-lot sized coverage – up to 1/2 mile. The radio stations can be utilized to broadcast emergency / safety information at the discretion of local emergency officials under FCC Part 15 (unlicensed) and Part 90 (licensed) rules.
A more indepth version of this story received top billing by Radio World magazine on March 17, 2021: see “Health Officials Deploy TIS for Vaccinations.”
* * *
FCC Grants Permissions due to National Emergency

The Federal Communications Commission Licensing Bureau has been authorizing operators of Information Radio Stations temporary allowances to operate outside licensed parameters in 2020/21 due to the ongoing pandemic.

Examples:

Locality Allowance
Birmingham. AL Increased antenna height (52 meters)
California OES (Los Angeles) Decreased interstation separation (7 miles)
Hudson County, NJ Increased transmitter power (100 watts)
Portola Valley CA Increased signal intensity (2.0 mV/m to 3.1 miles)
This list does not include temporary stations authorized by FCC on an emergency/temporary basis which operate within conventional parameters.
© 1983-2021 • Information Station Specialists, Inc. • All Rights Reserved
PO Box 51, Zeeland, Michigan, USA, 49464-0051, Phone 616.772.2300, Fax 616.772.2966, Email Form

• • •
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.