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KIRO Unveils Upgraded Emergency Studio

KIRO’s Vashon Island AM transmission site is the 14th PEP station upgrade completed by FEMA

KIRO(AM)’s Jake and Stacy broadcast their mid-day sports show live from the emergency studio. (Photo courtesy FEMA Region 10 via Twitter)

In the event of a natural disaster or national emergency, Seattle’s KIRO(AM) is prepared to keep the public informed. The Bonneville International station is the latest station to upgrade its emergency broadcasting capabilities as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Public Warning System (NPWS).

Based at the station’s Vashon Island, Wash., transmitter site in Puget Sound, the free-standing emergency studio is designed and hardened to withstand natural disasters and acts of terrorism. The upgraded facility was formally dedicated on Nov. 19. As part of the unveiling, KIRO mid-day hosts Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost originated their show live from the new emergency studio.

“It’s an honor for Bonneville Seattle to serve the community and we are proud to partner with FEMA. We share and salute the agency’s commitment to protecting the public,” said Bonneville International President Darrell Brown in a statement released by FEMA. “Radio is a lifeline, and the new studio and continued investment will ensure KIRO-AM 710’s resiliency during times of crisis when communication is vital.”

[Related: “FEMA Celebrates PEP Upgrade at Historic WBZ”]

Maintained under FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), KIRO is a Primary Entry Point (PEP) station — one of 77 across the country. PEP stations are specially designated NPWS broadcast stations that serve as the primary intake source of initial broadcasts for a national alert. Together, the 77 PEP stations provide coverage to 90 percent of the United States.

FEMA equips PEP stations, which are operated by local station personnel, with backup communications equipment and power generators, allowing them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an emergency, including conveying official alerts to communities regionally and nationwide.

KIRO is the 14th PEP station to complete the all-hazards upgrade, which included outfitting a hardened shipping container with a full radio studio, a 60-day supply of food and water, and sleeping and bathroom facilities, along with sustainable power-generation capabilities.

The island location of the site is not a problem for emergency readiness, according to Bonneville Seattle General Manager Cathy Cangiano. “The Coast Guard has standing orders to meet members of the KIRO staff at the Seattle waterfront and rush them to the Vashon transmitter site,” Cangiano told MyNorthwest.