City of Pasadena’s new emergency radio station begins operations
Pasadena’s Office of Emergency Management recently put in place an important part of the city’s disaster communications puzzle: an AM radio station capable of broadcasting preparedness and crisis event information in response to any local disaster that may affect our community. It will work in concert with similar radio services in Deer Park and La Porte.
Emergency Management responders say they are pleased the new 830 AM band radio service is now operational. It provides Pasadena public safety officials with the ability to continue to provide timely, and perhaps lifesaving, information to the public, even if telephone, television and internet services have been interrupted. In fact, such AM broadcasts may be regarded as the “last line of emergency communications defense because of the nature of their transmission and public reception,” says Robert Hemminger, the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator.
Relying on self-contained message generation software and generator-backed broadcasting equipment, the City now can independently continue to get the word out to the public even if residents have only a battery operated radio; many now rely on solar-powered or hand-cranked models to become even more self-sufficient. At a time when telephone lines may be down or electricity unavailable for other channels of information, the 830 AM radio transmissions could become a lifeline to residents coping with a rapidly developing crisis.
During normal operations, a series of messages play that provide routine information about household preparedness and safety tips. But if a crisis develops, messages can be programmed from the City’s emergency operations center, or even called in remotely if necessary. It is anticipated that the City’s new E-Merge multi-tasking communications application will soon be able to drive a common message through a number of public and official channels, including the new radio station. In the meantime, staff will manually add any messages, should an event demand it.
The radio service uses a cart system of message storage that allows managers to append additional information to existing messages and prioritize the number of times a message is heard in rotation.
“This system is a very robust and flexible approach to radio messaging to the public,” Hemminger said. “It will be useful for routine weather and day-to-day information, helpful in broadening our reach during moderate event involvement, and absolutely essential in providing the public with alerts during critical situations that affect other communication channels.”
The flexibility of the system allows it to provide Pasadena-specific messages on 830 AM, while La Porte does the same in its broadcast area, as does Deer Park; the latter will be on an existing 530 AM band.
“We’re pleased to be able to bring this significant enhancement to Pasadena’s emergency communications toolbox online,” Hemminger said. “I encourage residents to familiarize themselves with it now, so they will automatically turn to it should an event occur. Of course, we hope we never have to use it in a crisis, but realistically, having something like this in our community is a great way for residents to reassure themselves we’re better prepared for all contingencies.”