Broadcasters and EAS advocates in particular are reacting to Ann Arnold’s death.
The president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters and EAS leader died over the weekend after a 20+-year battle with leukemia. She was 67.
Broadcast engineer and EAS expert Richard Rudman said, “As far as I am concerned Ann not only had a horse in the public warning race — she owned the race track!”
Rudman believes Arnold’s “force-of-nature passion for improving public warnings was born out of a deep frustration with her own state of Texas not providing a statewide infrastructure to properly support local and state public warnings. One of my first discussions with her as plans were forming for what might be done to improve the Emergency Broadcasting System centered on what states needed to do to provide that infrastructure.”
Rudman said an excerpt from an email that Arnold sent him in 2002 discusses an important EAS improvement on which the broadcast industry remains focused:
Funding is needed to coordinate efforts, set-up and operate state and local emergency coordinating committees, train representatives of state and local governments and broadcasters in how to make the warning system work effectively and in some cases provide equipment vital to linking up the various components of the EAS chain of operations. (In some states, for example, there is no effective way of communicating a national or state emergency message because no governmental entity will take responsibility for or purchase equipment or phone lines to deliver or relay emergency messages.
Rudman continues: “I know Ann had a list of phone numbers for EAS subject experts. It was not unusual to get a call from Ann not only asking for opinions, but to make sure that community knew where she stood.”
Arnold often hosted and attended EAS-related meetings while facing serious personal health problems, according to Rudman, who said after EAS was launched in 1997, Arnold was always there offering advice and counsel during his term as chair of the EAS National Advisory Committee.
Maine Association of Broadcasters President/CEO Suzanne Goucher, too, worked closely with Arnold for over a decade on EAS and other issues. She says of Arnold: “I learned so many valuable lessons from her about doing the right thing with dogged determination. And I stood in awe of her ability to get up and keep going in the face of the most daunting obstacles.”
Goucher credits Arnold’s involvement in alerting with a renewed interest in and focus on EAS at the federal level. That interest “has its roots in her desire to get the players in a room to talk about ways to improve the system. Her passing leaves a gaping hole in both the broadcasting and public alerting communities,” according to Goucher.
After the sudden death of its executive director Bonner McLane in 1987, Arnold was asked to take over the helm at the TAB, which credits her for helping broadcasters create “a positive business climate in the state through her work at the Texas capital, before Congress and the FCC.”
Arnold had a career as a newspaper reporter before her TAB tenure. She worked as a correspondent for United Press International and the Fort Worth Star-Telegrambefore joining then-Gov. Mark White’s administration as press secretary.
She was the first woman to serve as a Texas governor’s press secretary, according to an account on the TAB website.
“She was fearless in her advocacy for local radio and television broadcasters, for the public’s right to know how elected officials run our government, and in her long fight with cancer,” said TAB Chairman Mary Mike Hatcher of Bryan Broadcasting in a statement on the site. “Texas is a better place because of her.”
Arnold was also president of the National Alliance of State Broadcast Associations in 2005.