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Emergency Warning OOOOGAH

I still get P-O’d when I see the “system” gearing up for another unfunded mandate.

I still get P-O’d when I see the “system” gearing up for another unfunded mandate.

Granted, the latest “idea du jour” concerning emergency warnings has been perpetuated by many owners just looking for ways to legally keep their stations “in the loop” while running totally remote, sans operator. For them, ponying up a grand or two for the latest whiz-bang contraption that repeats some “smiley bastard’s” recorded message, warning the area to prepare for a catastrophe, may fit their lifestyle. But it’s the epitome of smoke and mirrors while providing a PMA for broadcast ownership.

For the station that’s actually manned during this emergency, is that annoying EBS two-tone warble — or the even worse gawd-awful noise burst of the “new and improved” EAS system — really essential? The normal weather sounder developed by most of the stations I listen to is more than adequate to get my attention.

Back when the bureaucrats were dreaming up this glorioski EAS system I suggested a survey of all stations be made. Not costly; done on a post card, with a simple question: “Would your station like to continue to be involved in the EBS system?” One small box for Yes and another for Hell No!

That of course was lambasted by the “well-heeled” and the equipment manufacturers, not to mention the “messengers” whose publications they wrote for, who needed that advertising, I suspect. Kinda like HD Radio today eh? Although, thankfully, that’s not an unfunded mandate, and a lean-mean-fining-machine the FCC FI’s have turned the EBS/EAS systems into.

But not one of these inventions will turn on the listener’s radio … or TV … or computer … or whatever device the warning is supposed to be received on. Nor will it turn on the radio transmitter of the signed-off stations, whether a daytimer or a go-to-bed-at-midnight operator.

When I had a dog in this hunt as a small-station owner, jock, salesman, engineer, janitor, etc. etc. etc., and was looking at coming up with the money to pay for that new Sage or TFT or some facsimile, I made a suggestion to that august bureaucracy, the FCC: Why not do something that might actually work?

At that time, according to the FCC’s figures, 86 percent of all EBS actuations were weather-related. So my thought was, why not spend this revenue expanding the NOAA weather system transmitters, so all the voids could be filled in? Then we’d have a system that would actually turn on during an alert and awaken a sleeping resident/listener. There were receivers on the market that sat on a counter, bedstand, cabinet, wherever, that awaited the “turn on” signal from the NOAA transmitter. Imagine that: a government-run entity that actually worked.

Admittedly, during my rant at the time I may have gone overboard by suggesting we inform Japanese manufacturers of our intent and how there might be a “run” on those NOAA receivers. At that time, it was my guess they would be supplying our nation with units for about $4.95 each, cheap enough to buy several for rooms in the home.

This wouldn’t be the end-all, of course, but it certainly would be the initial “flag-waver” and OOOOGGAAHH horn to alert us, and maybe awaken us, to a pending disaster. That’s way more than my AM daytimer could do in 1972 during the Rapid City flood. I am still awaiting a two-tone warble. Even the full-time operations must have figured it was superfluous.

Bill Spitzer
Rapid City, S.D.