| Radio - the saviour
in an emergency.
Yet again a severe storm - in this case Hurricane Charley - has
demonstrated the unique advantages of radio when it comes to overwhelming
natural disasters. It's a medium that is portable, unlike TV doesn't
demand mains power, and almost as important is affordable.
In Florida, when other services were down or effectively unavailable
to those without power supplies, the radio through portable transistors
and automobile radios came into its own as a medium for giving information
on where things like clean water supplies were to be had.
Florida is reported to be considering plans to give away radios
for use in such events: We'd like to go further and think nationally
or even internationally.
Bearing in mind how cheaply radio receivers
can be produced and noting the dropping by the US military
of simple radio receivers in Afghanistan, it seems to us that
the cost per head of a universal issue of radios for emergency
use would be well worth considering for the US and indeed
many other countries.
The receivers in our view should not be dependant on power
sources that could run out so we'd prefer clockwork power
to batteries and they also need to be rugged and waterproof.
It might also be worth considering the addition of some simple
transmission capability so that a set could potentially act
as a beacon for rescue teams although we have concerns here
that the combination of selfishness and stupidity of some
people could render this function of little value.
Such sets would not necessarily need to be particularly sophisticated
if allied with plans to ensure certain frequencies would be
available for emergency use - something that was part of the
first US warning system - CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic
Radiation) - that was set up during the Korean war and designated
AM frequencies 640 or 1240 kHz for use for a Presidential
address in the case of an attack and to supply emergency information.
We are not suggesting that nowadays emergency alerts should
be limited to the primitive technology then available but
do think that there is a danger in the current Federal Communications
Commission planning of an EAS system that the sophisticated
may be given too much priority over that which is functional
In any such situation as the Federal Communications Commission's
current consultation on Emergency Alert System there is inevitably
a temptation for people to pile on more and more "Wouldn't
it be a good idea if we could
?" requirements with
the end result of producing a sophisticated end result that
is far too expensive and also prone to failure.
The logic is therefore that there should in effect be a simple,
cheap and reasonably effective base system for use allied
with the use of more sophisticated systems.
The latter can include mobile phone devices and the Internet
for which the infrastructure already exists but in the event
of a dire emergency, as shown in Florida, many advance systems
can be knocked out although ironically in such a scenario
as Charley a satellite radio system is probably more reliable
than a terrestrial one, providing the receivers are available.
Sophisticated systems, however, tend to cost quite a lot and
have more potential for failure.
A cost effective back up.
In comparison, a simple robust waterproof clockwork radio cum
torch that would receive a few selected AM and FM frequencies
could be mass-produced for a few dollars a time and thus provided
to pretty well everyone.
If the other systems remain up and running, all well and good:
The clockwork radio won't be as useful as a phone, sophisticated
radio receiver, TV channels, the Internet and all the other sources
of information that are so often taken for granted.
It's when there is massive devastation, however, that information
is often most crucial and that's just when the fancy systems get
Against that background, we think the argument for a cheap robust
back up is worth thorough consideration and costing. Such a back
up requires far less infrastructure to remain in working order
and would be of use to all, not just those who can afford the
What you think? Please