If and When It Gets Really Bad… An Excerpt

I found this interesting write up by former Big Island resident Charles “Buc” Fitch on the Radio World Blog and I thought I’d move an excerpt of it over here:

….The first time I really got into this weighty issue was in 1970 when I attended disaster planning meetings on the Big Island of Hawaii. We were one of only four radio stations on the island.

We recognized the following emergency events that could seriously affect the populace, in descending order:

Violent volcanic eruption with resulting unpredictable lava flows
Pestilence (this included plague, rampant disease, water quality issues, etc.)
Invasion (including fallout)

(Pestilence was not a joke but a real fear. When you’re on an island, you’re in an incubator. Half the indigenous Hawaiian population had been wiped out by diseases brought by missionaries.)

We focused on ways to keep our civilization running if weather or lava took out power generation, road connections, airport operations, communication microwave systems to the other islands, port facilities and the phone cable to the mainland.

Our station was near clear channel on 850, but the transmitter and studio were right on the water — definitely in the line of any tsunami that might come in our direction.

Given our modest resources, this is what we decided should be done:

-First, since the warning time for a major water inundation event was limited, the word “tsunami” would never be used on air except in the context of emergency announcements, period. The word was off-limits for humor, as a comparative, in advertising as a superlative and the like. We wanted people to pay attention when they heard the word “tsunami.”

-PSAs and issue programming would focus on how warnings for all events would be issued and what people should do in response to those warnings. What reasonable preparations should be accomplished in advance? How many gallons of potable water per person in the household should be kept on hand, batteries for radios, etc.?

-On the station side, we would evacuate along with everyone else, and move outside the tsunami impact zone and above the high wave level of previous hurricanes.

-The station would continue running with program input from the Civil Defense (remember CD?) emergency offices via dialup POTS. That would be my new duty post. Since the entire phone system in Hilo was hardwire DC with central battery, the phone system could run on for nearly two days without power; and if we were lucky enough for our radio station to stay on, our battery-powered mixer could provide program output for that period.

-If the radio station was wiped out, we all had backup assignments. I was to report to the chief engineer of the phone company to help in the restoration of their radio links.

Forty years later, circumstances are different all over the radio industry. For instance, almost every station has generators…

Full article here “If and When It Gets Really Bad


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