KCSB FM and its media partner, The Santa Barbara Independent, are now able to receive emergency information during power outages. Through the Radio Ready program, KCSB has installed satellite communication equipment made available through the organizing efforts of a public-private collaboration.
Involved in the Radio Ready effort are the County of Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Services, the community group California Concern, Direct Relief International, and the Orfalea Foundation, which provided funding.
“The radio can be your lifeline for information during any emergency,” said Bill Pearlman, project manager for California Concern, pointing out that television and the Internet don’t work during a power outage, and cell phone service can be spotty or go down altogether because of overloaded systems.
During last year’s Gap Fire, electrical power was lost for long periods over several days, delaying information about firefighting efforts, evacuations, road closures, and other breaking news. Post-fire discussions between emergency-response agencies and the media identified communications during blackouts as a priority in preparing for future disasters.
It was the Gap Fire that spurred KCSB and The Santa Barbara Independent to forge an emergency-information media partnership and launch the IndyAlert program. Utilizing The Independent‘s stable of reporters and KCSB’s 24-hour radio signal, the partnership brings on-the-spot reporting and immediately relays emergency notices from fire and police authorities.
The IndyAlert system provided Web, email, text message, and radio updates during November’s Tea Fire. This important community service is now enhanced by the satellite connection between KCSB radio and the county’s Office of Emergency Services.
Three radio entities have received the Radio Ready satellite equipment. In addition to KCSB, Rincon Broadcasting and Knight Broadcasting will be receiving emergency information through satellite technology, then turning around and informing their listeners. Rincon has several stations, two of them Spanish-language, in the Santa Barbara area. Knight radio serves parts of North County.
As part of the Radio Ready campaign, the county is giving away 5,000 hand-crank radios to low-income families in the county. The radios, which include a mechanism to charge cell phones, will be distributed through the county’s Social Services department.
“Radio Ready is a vital emergency communication program for the county’s multiple jurisdictions and it will further enhance our efforts to inform and protect Santa Barbara residents during an emergency,” said Michael Harris, emergency operations chief for Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services.
The program will also involve a public education and awareness campaign, the distribution of hand-crank radios to individuals in need, and emergency drill testing of the equipment. The program will launch March 8, 2009, in conjunction with Daylight Savings Time.