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KHKA Outfitted for NPWS Operation

The AM station is the first National Public Warning System emergency broadcasting facility in Hawai‘i

A drone’s eye view of the new hardened facilities at KHKA’s transmitter site. Photo courtesy of FMEA.

As Typhoon Mawar lashed Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, nearly 4,000 miles to the east federal officials were unveiling resiliency upgrades to KHKA(AM), the first National Public Warning System emergency broadcast facility in Hawai‘i.

The new facility at KHKA’s tower site in Kahauiki Village on the island of O‘ahu, like other NPWS facilities, features Federal Emergency Management Agency-provided backup communications equipment and power generators to keep the station on air during and after an emergency. The emergency studio is designed and hardened to withstand various natural disasters and acts of terrorism.

In addition to the hardened facilities, trained KHKA staff can operate the emergency facilities for several weeks to relay broadcast messages from the local, state, and federal governments, as well as community organizations. On-site food and water supplies allow the staffers to live independently at the emergency studio for up to 60 days.

“Radio continues to play a critical role in emergency response,” said Duane Kurisu, chairman of aio Media Group, owner of KHKA. “We are honored to partner with FEMA to offer this vital public service to our community.”

Currently, there are 77 PEP stations across the country, covering about 90 percent of the U.S. population.

“In coordination with our partners at aio, we’ve increased KHKA’s ability to continue operating under all conditions, be they natural disasters, acts of terrorism or other man-made events,” stated Antwane Johnson, FEMA’s IPAWS Director. “Broadcast radio, especially AM radio, communicates critical safety information to the public during an emergency and serves an extremely vital role in our nation’s public safety and national security communications infrastructure.”

From left: Kahu Kordell Kekoa, who performed the traditional cultural blessing of the site; Duane Kurisu, aio Media Group chairman; Manny Centeno, FEMA National Public Warning System program manager; and Antwane Johnson, director of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. Photo courtesy of FMEA.

The upgrade came just in time for the start of the Central Pacific hurricane season on June 1. According to Hawai‘i Public Radio, the KHKA tower also acts as a relay site for FEMA to maintain communications with the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam and American Samoa.

As is common in Hawai‘i, a traditional ceremony was conducted by a kahu to bless the site. Also during the launch event, KHKA connected on air with WWL(AM/FM) in New Orleans. WWL was upgraded to join the NPWS in 2012, and discussed broadcasting during emergencies — something WWL is very familiar with from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

[Read more stories about the IPAWS from Radio World.]