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North Tahoe FD to Warn Public Using Portable Radio Stations

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The North Tahoe Fire Protection District in California will soon begin speaking directly to the public during fire events in a most retro yet revolutionary way – using two portable broadcast radio transmitters.

“We will deploy the transmitters to announce evacuation routes, shelter locations, or changes in those scenarios, as that kind of thing will change with the wind quite literally”  states the District’s Chris Stulik.

When fire emergencies happen in the communities joined by the necklace of roads adorning Lake Tahoe, the results can be anything but charming. Motorists approaching an incident can be sandwiched between traffic gridlock, steep cliffs and the shoreline, unable to turn around or even reach a detour or evacuation route.

“What prompted our chief to want to utilize this kind of system in the first place were two large fires in the Lake Tahoe area. One was in our district that traveled rapidly from a residential area into the wildland. We have a two-lane highway around the Lake. We have one feeder route into and out of Tahoe City. Predictably, at the "Y" there was a traffic jam. The phones were ringing off the hook at our local fire station to where it became undoable to answer all the questions,” recalls Chris Stulik, assistant to the District's public information officer. “The transmitters would have been an excellent way of helping to inform people to keep out of the area and to call the emergency number for updates.”

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The North Tahoe Fire Protection District has recently included two of the RadioSTAT transmitters as standard equipment on their Public Information Trailers, for quick deployment when and where needed.

“Recently,” adds Stulik, “there was a smoke incident at a local elementary school.  Everyone is just fine and the emergency was handled very well. If something like that had escalated, Chief Whitelaw of North Tahoe Fire loves the idea of being able to address the parents by broadcasting to them locally, where to pick up their children.”

The challenges of this environment are shared by all public agencies in the area, and so the District is making the RadioSTAT units available on an inter-agency basis. The Placer County Sheriff's Department has been drilled on their use and deployment, along with citizen team leaders, the Red Cross, neighboring fire agencies and even the local airport authority. “It is being viewed as a mutual asset in time of need because of our remote position in the mountains,” says Stulik. “The two-lane highway around the entire lake - and routing out of here - demands quick response and very accurate logistics in evacuating people to shelters during an emergency event.”

“This trend among agencies of fire response, as well as public health, emergency management, police, and federal agencies such as USDA (US Department of Agriculture), BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and the National Park Service to employ this technology continues to gain momentum,” asserts Bill Baker, spokesman for “AAIRO,” a national association of station operators." Baker states that the FCC/NTIA (Federal Communications Commission/National Telecommunications & Information Administration) databases currently list more than a thousand such stations operating in all 50 states.

The RadioSTAT Portable Emergency Advisory Radio Station is manufactured by Information Station Specialists of Zeeland, Michigan, and is distributed nationally. The company makes both portable and fixed-location versions of the technology available to government agencies. For more information, see: www.theradiosource.com

- Corporate News, 9-1-1magazine.com (via Information Station Specialists, Dec. 14 2010)

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