Recent events in Florida and Texas have reaffirmed radio’s vital role in providing emergency information at times when all other communications channels fail. A recent $419,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to NPR aims to enhance the ability of public radio stations in “Tornado Alley” to expand their emergency messaging capabilities on mobile devices and other digital platforms.
NPR will provide up to 30 stations across 10 Midwest, South Central and Gulf Coast states with software and training to connect with the PRSS MetaPub delivery system. The metadata technology will enable public radio stations to issue text and graphic alerts synchronized with over-the-air broadcast messages to be heard and seen on mobile phones, HD radios, “connected car” devices, Radio Data System displays, and via online audio streaming.
PRSS in turn, will provide participating stations with extensive engineering support and conduct quality-assurance tests. Participating stations will provide feedback about the installation and implementation of MetaPub and ways to improve usage and help their local communities.
This work expands on a pilot test of MetaPub in 2016. As part of the “Great California ShakeOut” earthquake drill last October, six public radio stations transmitted emergency alert test messages using text and graphics. That project was funded by a $66,000 grant from CPB.
“Our goal is to give stations in severe weather-prone areas better tools to provide their audiences with potentially lifesaving information over multiple communication channels in times of emergency,” adds NPR Distribution Vice President Michael Beach. “Stations can let their audiences know about impending threats from severe weather, recommended evasive action, and locations of emergency shelters. These stations will help develop a process that can be used nationally across public radio.”