FCC, Broadcasters & Associations Prep for Florence

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Hurricane Florence DIRS map

Ahead of Hurricane Florence’s projected landfall in the Carolinas, the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has activated the Disaster Information Reporting System.

DIRS is a voluntary, online system that communications providers, including broadcasters, can use to report communications infrastructure status and situational awareness information during times of crisis. DIRS status reports are used to calculate how many stations are knocked off the air by storms and used to assess recovery progress, for example.

Reports are requested beginning Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. and every day after that by 10 a.m. until DIRS is deactivated, the commission says. The activation applies to the following counties (shown in the map above), broken down by state and shown in alphabetical order here:

  • Georgia: Appling, Bacon, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Candler, Chatham, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, Mcintosh, Montgomery, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen and Wayne
  • North Carolina: Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chatham, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Martin, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Wake, Washington, Wayne and Wilson
  • South Carolina: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg
  • Virginia: Chesapeake City, Suffolk City and Virginia Beach City

Note that separate Network Outage Reporting System obligations are suspended for this period in the aforementioned counties for participating communications providers, the FCC says.

On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also issued a statement detailing some of the agency’s preparation. He said, “At this point, FCC staff have already been deployed to survey the radiofrequency spectrum across critical areas of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and our Operations Center is open 24 hours a day. Our staff has also reached out to broadcast associations, wireless carriers, and other telecom companies in the areas expected to be hit by Hurricane Florence. We will closely monitor communications outages data in the coming days and work to support restoration and recovery efforts. ...”

The National Association of Tower Erectors also sent a message to members, reminding them “keeping safety at the forefront is critical to ensure everyone makes it home safely and to aid in the success of our industry.” NATE also addressed preparing for high wind conditions, and encouraged the use of licensed professionals or qualified maintenance staff.

NATE noted “many of the hazards posed to workers will occur immediately after the storm has passed,” especially flood clean up. Potential dangers include: electrical hazards, carbon monoxide, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicles, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. NATE emphasized, “The rush to fix a problem or deploy a site can seem overriding, but the cost of an accident is far more disruptive to a company than any service outage.”

And in North Carolina, Beasley Media Group Fayetteville’s Vice President/Market Manager Erika Beasley and Operations Manager Randy Bliss released a joint statement describing the cluster’s plans for Hurricane Florence and its aftermath. They said, “This is the time we as local broadcasters do what we do best, serve our local communities that we live and work in!”

Beasley and Bliss note that the area is still recovery from Hurricane Matthew, which struck the area in 2016, but said the cluster is “developing a timeline for going into full, wall-to-wall coverage” and plans to partner with Raleigh market TV stations for additional info. Even before transitioning to the hurricane-only coverage, they said “the majority of content, on the air and on social media [is already] dedicated to prepping for the storm.”

To ensure coverage, they said essential staff will plan to come to the station Friday morning and ride out the storm

Additionally, Beasley Fayetteville is promoting its recently updated mobile app, which they say will help listeners stay informed in the event of power losses. The stations also plan to continue their streams if any are knocked off the air by the hurricane. If necessary, Beasley also has created a contingency plan to simulcast brands if needed to consolidate resources.

Beasley Media Group Fayetteville consists of WKML(FM), WFLB(FM), WZFX(FM), WUKS(FM), WAZZ(AM), W228DK, WZFX(HD2) and W232CI.

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