Sunday, November 03, 2019

If radio doesn't provide local information, people turn to internet, but what happens when the power goes off?

Power company just not taking chances and turning off lines as winds whip through autumn dried California. Evacuations and things people take for granted, like traffic lights and cellphone communication not working in some cases.

This brings up the issue of emergency communications now that so much information flow goes over the internet and cellphone technologies. Quite a few cell towers don't have backup power, computers go dark without electricity and folks who now rely on their cellphone for just about everything keep running down the battery.

In years past, radio was a great technology for disseminating local information, but these days, a lot of radio stations are just automated music formats with no local news staff, or just national network feeds carrying programs like Rush Limbaugh.

If radio stations produced more local news and information content, people could turn to the radio for useful information. In the Bay Area, KQED does a good job, among stations, however. I enjoy their locally produced shows about homelessness, the environment, technology and so forth. I even find that information interesting up here in Bellingham, but I am an information junkie.

Some folks called a recent show about PG&E turning off power lines due to fire threat. They were wondering where they could get information, including emergency information, if their computers and cellphones go down. Where does one tune to on the radio? Battery operated radios can save on cellphone batteries.

I wrote a comment, probably lost among the comments, wondering if the Civil Defense Emergency Network could be, or has been, activated over radio stations to inform people which local stations were carrying the emergency information. How does one find those stations if their computer is down?

Much of the radio dial is just automated music or national network formats with no local news coverage. Maybe not quite so bad in a big metropolitan area, but here in Bellingham, there's practically no local news or talk. It just isn't economically viable. KGMI comes closest, but I noticed, over the years, that when we have big storms and so forth, it's often on a weekend when the local news staff is not working. That station is usually just national network feeds. Other local stations are pretty much all music; like turning my MP3 player on shuffle; a concert on the decks of the Titanic as it's sinking.