Jamila Flomo’s commentary, “Multilingual Emergency Broadcasting: A Moral Imperative for the Radio Industry,” highlights more than an American issue — it’s a global issue. Emergencies occur unexpectedly and often not in the areas where a local response plan has been made or alert resources are in place. In essence, this is what the author of this valuable article suggests. She is highlighting an important issue but offers a very homemade, patchy solution.
The Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) digital audio broadcasting standard has an in-built Emergency Warning Function (EWF) which allows multilingual messages to be broadcast and also sent as text messages, while superseding current programs, to the exact area affected and all within minutes, if the authorities are geared for responding that promptly. In that case the radio becomes the alert box.
Moreover, this feature means that, even if an area is totally devastated, a transmitter (in AM) from outside the area, could broadcast in one or several languages to the affected region. The ability to provide parallel images, maps and messages in one or several languages also means that people with disabilities can be informed in the language they understand.
Information on the Emergency Warning specs for DRM can be downloaded here (PDF).
FCC has mandated one digital system for the U.S.A. (HD Radio) but allowing DRM, an open and therefore freely available standard, to be implemented would also allow a ready-made, large-scale and scalable solution that could save American lives. No tinkering with EAS required and no ad hoc solutions that are not easy to implement 24 hours a day.
Digital DRM is a standard that has an inbuilt modern emergency system, at no cost, allowing people to survive even in the harshest and most unexpected conditions.