Rotella Hails N.J. Radio Engineers and Other Staff
Garden State residents
were at the center of Sandy’s impact. New Jersey Broadcasters Association
President and CEO Paul Rotella spoke with Radio World’s Emily Reigart Friday
about the storm’s impact on the state’s broadcasters and efforts to prepare and
were personally impacted by this storm. What strikes you most?
I know these people. I know where
they live, and I know a couple of them did lose their houses. And they’re
staying on the air. They’re serving their listeners, sometimes at personal
did your member stations prepare for the storm?
There are two types of preparedness.
There’s commercial consumer — what I call hype — preparedness. It doesn’t really
give people information. It just gets people excited. Then there’s the
professional hype, professional preparedness …
broadcast standpoint, we were professionally prepared, and that’s because of
the hard work of the station manager all the way down to the person that’s
cleaning up the floors. Particularly the engineers.
know on Sunday I gave my stations a call to see if they needed any help getting
ready from us. They had people coming in with sleeping bags, so they knew
they’d be there for a couple days. They brought food, they brought changes of
clothes, they brought their personal effects. And they camped out at their
station Sunday night waiting for the disaster that ensued Monday and Tuesday.
That was one level of preparedness.
What was the other level?
level was very important. The engineers and the leadership in the station, the
people who are producers, work with the equipment did their submarine drills, I
used to call them.
Was everything working correctly?
Did they have backup resources? What kind of backup plans did they have? I’m a big fan of redundancy. Some stations
had triple redundancy. … And you know what? They needed it.
It wasn’t just having these generators. Having a generator and making sure
it works right are two different things. So they tested them. And the other
variable that a lot people didn’t think of was do you have enough gasoline to
run your generator?
all of that preparation, how well do you think stations weathered the storm?
saying things like, well, a couple stations did go down. Yeah, if you have 10
feet of water, a station will go down. But if a station does go down, it
doesn’t matter so much because one station alone can reach millions of people.
So if you have hundreds of stations and one goes down, people are going to hear
it, they are going to get their information. That’s what the ubiquitous nature
of radio is all about.
do you think people can learn from this experience to help in future disaster
hoping for in terms of preparedness is that cell phone carriers light up the FM
chip in cell phones, that they have them placed in cell phones if it’s not — it
can be done for pennies — and if they don’t want to open up the chip because
they want to make money off the streaming rate, at least let them turn it on in
times of emergency so that each cell phone becomes a radio.
Look for more of this interview in an upcoming issue of Radio World.
Paul Rotella became the NJBA president and CEO in 2008. He
serves on the board of directors for the Media Ratings Council and is a member
of both the National Alliance of State Broadcasters and the National