As usual with some historic perspective on the one hand and an outlook regarding the use in future mass casualty events.
Radio is simple to use, effective way of getting instructions to those who are otherwise left clueless or, even worse, dependent on the spread of rumors in absence of real, verified and reliable information.
Unfortunately many broadcasting capabilities of stations using airwaves with very long ranges like shortwave have been reduced, because nowadays other broadcasts and Internet based transmissions of sound, video and text are more popular and (admittedly) of better quality. The only problem is what to do if these more modern forms of telecommunication fail ?
source: Youtube, uploaded by
A visual severe weather warning makes sense to alert people when they just watch TV and must get the severe weather warning as soon as possible in order to get the maximum time to prepare themselves for the impact of that weather emergency. As described many times: there are dangers like earthquakes which can't be predicted when they happen and if they happen only a few seconds (up to very few minutes far away from the epicenter) forewarning time remains.
When a disaster has impacted the populated area and all those TV/radio transmitters, cell towers, satellite connections and land lines for phone or Internet have been damaged or destroyed the population has suddenly no reliable source of information. The first simple, but sufficient thing to restore is radio ! It doesn't require as much technical stuff as TV and its signal could be picked up over a much wider area than TV. Many people do have TVs, but what if they all don't have AC power ? Many people however do have portable radios which also run on batteries, many mobile phones have built-in FM receivers (many owners might not be aware of this feature) and most cars have a radio which offer at least FM reception, sometimes even AM bands and cars/trucks have fully charged 12/24V batteries which could last for days if just the radio is switched on. (of course the battery also recharges if the motor runs)
To setup a backup FM/AM transmitter doesn't require that much financial and power resources and the advantage in holiday destinations abroad is that there's no worry about all those different TV standards in all those countries. (NTSC,PAL,SECAM,DVB-T,DVB-T2,how many lines, 50 or 60Hz, etc)
FM is FM and AM is AM all over the world, just there might be some countries which have slightly different frequency bands. It's also much simpler to get a 'network' running, since only one powerful transmitter is need in order to reach possibly millions of people (in densely populated areas) instead of numerous cell towers for 3G/4G or WIFI networks. Radio has noticeably the disadvantage of offering no channel from the citizens back to sender, but in time of regional/national/international crisis it's more important to get instructions out for the population.
As currently ongoing 'crisis light' (it could have been much worse, with many more dead and wounded) reminds us that often such simple things like where to pick up food or water at an outlet run by either military or NGO wouldn't be possible without radio instructions or printed fliers. (recently the Dutch Navy hand the latter out at Sint Maarten) Food and water distribution points are important and so are instructions for evacuation, medical tips or tips on hygiene or where wounded can be brought to in order to get proper treatment. It's hard to imagine for millennials, but for more than 50 years the world managed pretty well without Internet, apps, Youtube and all the other nice gadgets. Those gadgets are nice to have, but pretty useless when there's no Internet via 3G,4G,WIFI,Cable or DSL which can be knocked out all at once.
Radio can also be pretty upsetting for those who are used to comment on each and every message they come across. Radio is pretty simple: We (radio operators) talk, you - listen ! In an emergency that all what counts. It's like "Do this - or you might die"
Emergency broadcasts in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin (Hurricane Irma)
#SaintMartin #SaintBarthelemy Urgence Info Îles du Nord émet en français, créole et anglais sur 91.1 à Saint-Martin https://t.co/04QdpJRhQ3 pic.twitter.com/uJVhB9PM0T— franceinfo (@franceinfo) September 10, 2017
#StMaarten: air evacs suspended for today. We continue to communicate w/ US citizens via social media, radio (101.1 FM) & phone w/ hotels.— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) September 10, 2017
Florida (Hurrcane Irma)US Citizens in #SaintMartin (French side): French police recommend continuing to use 101.1 FM on radio for English language instructions.— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) September 13, 2017
The power of public radio. Great video of @wgcu in Fort Myers & how they kept people informed during Hurricane Irmahttps://t.co/P46mrdK0lP— Russell Lewis (@NPRrussell) September 11, 2017
Broadcast 500W and 1KW FM Transmitters [commercial] #
Emergency Broadcast System (USA) [Wikipedia]
Emergency Alert System (USA) [Wikipedia]
Emergency Alert System (EAS) (USA) [FCC]