July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina emergency alerts might go retro, air on AM radio

MEDINA — City Council is examining using AM radio to broadcast emergency notifications.

Though the city and Police Department use cable TV, Internet and Facebook to notify the public of emergencies, Ward 3 Councilman Mark Kolesar said he wants to explore going “old school” with an AM radio station.

“Not everyone uses the Internet or has the luxury to use cable, do this as an avenue to get to everybody,” he said.

Emergency notifications include boil alerts, road closings and weather events. Special events also could be broadcast.

Kolesar said he looked into the AM radio station idea several years ago, and revived it after a citywide boil alert was issued in 2010.

“It was tough to get out information to the public,” he said. “I thought this could be another enhancement to the tools we use to communicate.”

Michigan-based Information Station Specialists gave a quote of $29,555 to install the system, which would include an FCC licensing fee.

Start-up costs could be covered with grants, possibly through the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the station’s ongoing costs would be maintenance-related and minimal, Kolesar said.

Brunswick city uses AM 1700 for emergency notifications, said Jeffrey Neidert, Brunswick Area Television manager of information and public communication.

Neidert said the system is designed for motorists, so the low frequency of the signal does not penetrate buildings easily.

Brunswick also uses the CodeRED system for emergency notifications, which Neidert said is more effective. It also is more costly. The city pays $22,500 a year for CodeRED, which sends recorded messages to phones.

“The station is a one-time thing, but CodeRed is $22,500 per year,” he said. “For the service, I think it’s beneficial.”

He said Brunswick does not plan to renew its radio license with the FCC when it expires next year.

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city uses a system similar to CodeRED provided by the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, but it only has the ability to call a few lines at a time. It also requires messages to be smaller than the capacity needed by the city.

The Medina County Emergency Management Agency is examining the possibility of expanding the service, Hanwell said.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.