Morris St. Angelo, owner of Grace Radio in Slidell, La., with his wife, Pat.
Like thousands of other EAS participants, Morris St. Angelo was ready to go on the afternoon of Sept. 26.
St. Angelo is owner of Grace Radio/ WGON, a low-power station on 103.7 FM that broadcasts a mix of Christian news and music to approximately 28,000 people in Slidell, La. Sitting on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain just outside of New Orleans, Slidell is a town that knows all too well the importance of EAS communications. Slidell suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina when the town withstood a 16-foot storm surge when Katrina made landfall in 2005.
St. Angelo and his staff were ready and waiting to participate in the nation’s third nationwide EAS preparedness test. Here’s his rundown of how this small-market station prepped and participated, and what suggestions they have for those at FEMA and the FCC on how to improve the process.
Before the day of the test, we had updated the software release on our EAS hardware from version 3.0 to 3.1. The EAS device we have is the Digital Alert Systems DASDEC-II. We made sure we had everything in place and checked to ensure, as much as possible, that everything was in working order. Then we notified our staff to be listening on the day of the test to insure it worked.
All my staff was on standby to listen for the EAS test rebroadcast and I went to the station with another staff member to await the event. At exactly 1:21 p.m. Central Time, according to the clock on our computer, the message came to the station and was rebroadcast over our station WGON(LP). We received the alert from one source, WWL(AM) 870, an AM station out of New Orleans which is about 35 miles away.
My iPhone almost immediately chirped to life as staff members around our listening area texted that they heard the EAS test on their respective radios at our station on 103.7 MHz FM.
I left the station and went to my office to complete the ETRS FCC Forms Two and Three. The time was about 4 p.m. CST when I began filling in the forms. I logged on the ETRS website, scrolled to the bottom of the home page and read the instructions on how to the start the process. There was a link to click on that took me to step one in the procedure.
I used my preassigned email address and password as directed and my information showed up on the screen. I continued as directed and somehow ended up in the area of the ETRS website that wanted me to update the previously completed information from Form One that [consultant] John Broomall had done for me. I realized I had done something wrong. I went to the top of the screen and clicked on my name and was able to logout of the site.
I started over and read the ETRS home page more slowly and carefully than I had previously. I took my time, and clicked where directed, and followed the proverbial Yellow Brick Road. This time I was able to complete Form Two. Since I was on a roll I started the procedure to complete Form Three. At exactly 4:29 p.m. CST I received the message from the ETRS web page that I had successfully completed Forms Two and Three. I logged off the site and sent Broomall an email noting my success and thanked him for his assistance.
In conclusion, I found the ETRS site a bit cluttered and not very user friendly. I formerly owned and operated a computer software company that developed software products for the hotel and restaurant industry nationally. That experience has made me sensitive to the ease of use of computer software products. The ETRS site could be improved with the end users in mind as they develop their products. But, I was able to get the job done in about 30 minutes.