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Removing Car Radios “Puts Consumers at Risk,” Former FEMA Head Says

Brock Long compares radio receivers to life vests and emphasizes broadcast radio’s role during emergencies

Worried about a future without radio in the car dash? Former FEMA administrator Brock Long feels the same way.

He wrote a commentary for the Detroit News imploring the car manufacturing community to understand “the importance of radio” in the context of disaster readiness and response. 

In the article, Long, who is now executive chairman for Hagerty Consulting, compares car radios to life jackets and writes that “[t]aking them out puts consumers at risk, plain and simple.” Additionally, Long points out that “these broadcasts are the only method the government has to reach every point in the country.”

Why? First, Long says that in-car listening adds a level of redundancy to our alerting system because cars are not connected to the electric grid, and more than 95% of U.S. households own a car, which means the vast majority of the country can receive information in this way. Also, the Federal Emergency Management Administration has spent $100 million to ensure radio stations have adequate backup infrastructure, including generators. 

FEMA continues to put its money behind radio, adding more stations and backup facilities at great expense in order to strengthen the National Public Warning System. Aside from those monetary investments, radio’s manpower is critical; Long cites several instances of broadcasters taking their duties as first informers and responders seriously. However, Long points out that these efforts are diminished when carmakers remove radio from new vehicles. 

Understanding radio’s role is crucial to “the success of future governmental disaster relief efforts,” Long says.

Read Brock Long’s Detroit News commentary here. This article came on the heels of an optional Tesla update that would remove AM/FM capability from some vehicle models in favor of video streaming.