Radio Guide Mar/Apr-2012 : Page 16

Disaster Preparedness A Disaster Plan That Worked by Robert D. Reite, CBT The WHLM stations are located in the Susquehanna River valley in Columbia County Pennsylvania, an area subject to flooding. In 2001, Joe Reilly put a dark 930 AM Bloomsburg PA station back on the air as a full service station – his emphasis on community service. I was hired as the contract engineer for the station, as I knew transmitters, AM antenna systems, audio equip-ment, EAS, and radio automation systems. Three years later, Joe bought the 103.5 MHz Class A FM in Berwick, PA about 20 miles away. Back-Up Power We have a propane powered backup generator at the AM transmitter site, as well as main and backup transmitters at both the AM and FM sites. At the studio it is possible to switch either studio to either transmitter. There is no clear line of sight to either transmitter site from the studio, so the AM station is fed over a ISDN circuit, and the FM on a point to point T-1 circuit. The T-1 had experienced enough prob-lems that we put in a Rivendell automation system at the FM site. This is connected to the silence sensor so that when we lose the T-1, at least we will have programming similar to the normal classic rock format on the air. There is no permanently installed backup generator at the main studio; however the owner had made arrange-ments with the Bloomsburg, PA fire department for the loan of a portable generator in case of an emergency. flood stage and preparation for “all flood, all the time” coverage began on Monday. By Tuesday the prediction was for the worst flooding since 1972. I stopped by the AM transmitter site Tuesday afternoon to test the generator, even though I had done a load test just a few months before. I then had to go home before the small creek near my house rose to the point where I would not be able to return. Although it was tempting to stay at the station, family responsibilities come first, and having an excess of non residents in an emergency area makes things more difficult for emergency responders. Continuous flood coverage began during the morning show on Wednesday. Studio Power Plan Worked As planned, the sales manager retrieved the portable generator from the porch of fire chief’s home shortly after daybreak, moments before that area flooded. The genera-tor was set up in front of the main studio building. We did not have to worry about theft of the generator, since our AM control room is a “showcase studio” on the ground floor with a view of the sidewalk. I talked the staff through the process of unplugging the studio equipment power strips from the wall outlets and connecting them to the heavy gauge extension cords com-ing from the generator – adding up the load as we went, with the most critical items first. First priority was for the AM station air chain, including the EAS equipment. Broad-casting from the studio on 930 AM resumed at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. The Internet connection was the next item to be restored, so that the staff could get additional reports of other areas being flooded. But when we attempted to get the FM studio back on the air, there was not enough generator capacity left, so we set up to simulcast the AM audio on the FM station for the duration of the emergency. Fortunately there was a gas station not too far away that still had power, so we had no problem getting additional fuel for the generator. Power was restored to downtown Bloomsburg by 9:00 o’clock Friday night, but we decided to continue the simulcast on the FM station until the emergency was over. Staff Fatigue By now the staff was getting pretty haggard, and the river was so high that staffers thought to be in a worry-free area had to go home and secure their property. The owner was still trying to get back into town, and I was able to gain access to local road closing information and give him the best route home, as Interstate 80 was closed. The owner arrived in time to give the weary staff some relief. We stayed in disaster mode over the weekend – normal pro-gramming did not resume until Monday. Bloomsburg Police Chief Leo Sokoloski, Pennsylvania State Senator John Gordnerand Bloomsburg, and Mayor Dan Knorron (L to R) during the disaster coverage. Photo by Mark Williams The WHIM studios powered by the Fire Department’s emergency generator, per the station’s disaster plan. Photo by Dr. Richard Ganahl The Plan in Action All day Wednesday, and for most of Thursday, every-thing went according to plan, even with the owner out of town – as our plan called our sales manager to be next in command if the owner is not available. Late Thursday high winds took out power at the AM transmitter site, but the propane fueled generator started promptly. The station staff that was in town had worked out a rotation schedule, and the sales manager went out in the field and did cell phone reports from critical areas. The WHLM stations gave out important emergency information, such as where residents could find fresh water, since the flooding forced the shutdown of the water treatment plant for the town. The location of emergency evacuation centers for residents forced out of their homes was also broadcast. Be Prepared To Adjust The Plan As Needed At 3:00 a.m. Friday morning, the normally reliable downtown Bloomsburg, PA power failed, leaving dead air on both the AM and FM stations. By this time I was trapped at home by small creek flooding, but I have backup power at home and a good old fashioned POTS line on copper which stayed up, so that I could receive and make phone calls to the station staff. I talked the sales manager through disconnecting the audio from the ISDN codec and connecting the line level audio output from the sports remote kit to the Optimod processor so that he could get on the air directly from the transmitter site. The task was easy since all the audio connectors are XLR plugs and jacks. Broadcasting on AM 930 resumed at 4:00 a.m. from the AM transmitter site. WHLM remained on the air, giving listeners vital informa-tion, even through a flood caused power outage. All thanks to a well designed and executed Disaster Plan and a dedicated staff. More Disaster Planning A project was in the works for the AM transmitter site. We were building an emergency studio there, just in case the main studio becomes uninhabitable, which would also cover loss of the AM STL. We had just made room for a desk and small mixing board, by selling off our old back-up transmitter. (We had purchased a new main transmitter and the former main transmitter now served as backup.) But as it turned out, mother nature did not give us time to finish this project. Disaster Strikes In early September, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, dumped torrents of rain for days into the Susquehanna River watershed. The river was expected to crest above What We Learned From The Experience First, the station staff may have their own personal issues to handle in an emergency, so you need twice as many people as one might think. Not only should you consider staff becoming trapped at the station, and having emer-gency supplies there, we needed to make adjustments to our disaster plan for staff that may be trapped at home, and unable to report for work in person, as I was. Although the arrangement with the Bloomsburg Fire Department for the loan of a generator worked according to plan, ideally a generator should be permanently installed at the studio site, fueled by natural gas so that it will never run out. Since the area is not prone to earthquakes, natural gas is the most reliable fuel at the studio location. Bob Reite is WHLM’s Chief engineer contact him at 570-784-1200 PAGE 16 Radio Guide • March-April 2012

Disaster Preparedness

Robert D. Reite

A Disaster Plan That Worked<br /> <br /> The WHLM stations are located in the Susquehanna River valley in Columbia County Pennsylvania, an area subject to flooding. In 2001, Joe Reilly put a dark 930 AM Bloomsburg PA station back on the air as a full service station – his emphasis on community service. I was hired as the contract engineer for the station, as I knew transmitters, AM antenna systems, audio equipment, EAS, and radio automation systems. Three years later, Joe bought the 103.5 Mhz Class A FM in Berwick, PA about 20 miles away.<br /> <br /> Back-Up Power <br /> <br /> We have a propane powered backup generator at the AM transmitter site, as well as main and backup transmitters at both the AM and FM sites. At the studio it is possible to switch either studio to either transmitter. There is no clear line of sight to either transmitter site from the studio, so the AM station is fed over a ISDN circuit, and the FM on a point to point T-1 circuit. The T-1 had experienced enough problems that we put in a Rivendell automation system at the FM site. This is connected to the silence sensor so that when we lose the T-1, at least we will have programming similar to the normal classic rock format on the air.<br /> <br /> There is no permanently installed backup generator at the main studio; however the owner had made arrangements with the Bloomsburg, PA fire department for the loan of a portable generator in case of an emergency.<br /> <br /> More Disaster Planning <br /> <br /> A project was in the works for the AM transmitter site.<br /> We were building an emergency studio there, just in case the main studio becomes uninhabitable, which would also cover loss of the AM STL.<br /> <br /> We had just made room for a desk and small mixing board, by selling off our old back-up transmitter. (We had purchased a new main transmitter and the former main transmitter now served as backup.) But as it turned out, mother nature did not give us time to finish this project.<br /> <br /> Disaster Strikes <br /> <br /> In early September, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, dumped torrents of rain for days into the Susquehanna River watershed. The river was expected to crest above flood stage and preparation for “all flood, all the time” coverage began on Monday. By Tuesday the prediction was for the worst flooding since 1972. I stopped by the AM transmitter site Tuesday afternoon to test the generator, even though I had done a load test just a few months before. I then had to go home before the small creek near my house rose to the point where I would not be able to return.<br /> <br /> Although it was tempting to stay at the station, family responsibilities come first, and having an excess of non residents in an emergency area makes things more difficult for emergency responders. Continuous flood coverage began during the morning show on Wednesday.<br /> <br /> The Plan in Action <br /> <br /> All day Wednesday, and for most of Thursday, everything went according to plan, even with the owner out of town – as our plan called our sales manager to be next in command if the owner is not available. Late Thursday high winds took out power at the AM transmitter site, but the propane fueled generator started promptly.<br /> <br /> The station staff that was in town had worked out a rotation schedule, and the sales manager went out in the field and did cell phone reports from critical areas. The WHLM stations gave out important emergency information, such as where residents could find fresh water, since the flooding forced the shutdown of the water treatment plant for the town. The location of emergency evacuation centers for residents forced out of their homes was also broadcast.<br /> <br /> Be Prepared To Adjust The Plan As Needed <br /> <br /> At 3:00 a.m. Friday morning, the normally reliable downtown Bloomsburg, PA power failed, leaving dead air on both the AM and FM stations. By this time I was trapped at home by small creek flooding, but I have backup power at home and a good old fashioned POTS line on copper which stayed up, so that I could receive and make phone calls to the station staff.<br /> <br /> I talked the sales manager through disconnecting the audio from the ISDN codec and connecting the line level audio output from the sports remote kit to the Optimod processor so that he could get on the air directly from the transmitter site. The task was easy since all the audio connectors are XLR plugs and jacks. Broadcasting on AM 930 resumed at 4:00 a.m. from the AM transmitter site.<br /> <br /> Studio Power Plan Worked <br /> <br /> As planned, the sales manager retrieved the portable generator from the porch of fire chief’s home shortly after daybreak, moments before that area flooded. The generator was set up in front of the main studio building. We did not have to worry about theft of the generator, since our AM control room is a “showcase studio” on the ground floor with a view of the sidewalk.<br /> <br /> I talked the staff through the process of unplugging the studio equipment power strips from the wall outlets and connecting them to the heavy gauge extension cords coming from the generator – adding up the load as we went, with the most critical items first. First priority was for the AM station air chain, including the EAS equipment. Broadcasting from the studio on 930 AM resumed at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. The Internet connection was the next item to be restored, so that the staff could get additional reports of other areas being flooded. But when we attempted to get the FM studio back on the air, there was not enough generator capacity left, so we set up to simulcast the AM audio on the FM station for the duration of the emergency.<br /> <br /> Fortunately there was a gas station not too far away that still had power, so we had no problem getting additional fuel for the generator. Power was restored to downtown Bloomsburg by 9:00 o’clock Friday night, but we decided to continue the simulcast on the FM station until the emergency was over.<br /> <br /> Staff Fatigue <br /> <br /> By now the staff was getting pretty haggard, and the river was so high that staffers thought to be in a worry-free area had to go home and secure their property. The owner was still trying to get back into town, and I was able to gain access to local road closing information and give him the best route home, as Interstate 80 was closed. The owner arrived in time to give the weary staff some relief. We stayed in disaster mode over the weekend – normal programming did not resume until Monday.<br /> <br /> What We Learned From The Experience <br /> <br /> First, the station staff may have their own personal issues to handle in an emergency, so you need twice as many people as one might think. Not only should you consider staff becoming trapped at the station, and having emergency supplies there, we needed to make adjustments to our disaster plan for staff that may be trapped at home, and unable to report for work in person, as I was.<br /> <br /> Although the arrangement with the Bloomsburg Fire Department for the loan of a generator worked according to plan, ideally a generator should be permanently installed at the studio site, fueled by natural gas so that it will never run out. Since the area is not prone to earthquakes, natural gas is the most reliable fuel at the studio location.<br /> <br /> Bob Reite is WHLM’s Chief engineer contact him at 570-784-1200

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