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October 24, 2021 5:24 pm  #1


The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

I'm sure there are some here who will understand this a lot better than I do, but there are apparently some 77 American radio stations that have been designated as "PEP" or Primary Entry Point outlets. They're tasked with the responsibility of being the first link in the chain if there's a dire emergency in the country - like a war or a nuclear attack and getting the word out to other stations across the country. 

The list of some of them can be seen on the map below, but what strikes me is how few FM stations there are and how many AMs are featured instead - even if many believe that band is on its way out. Most are 50,000 watt flame throwers and I suspect that's why they were chosen. Stations like WABC New York, KCBS San Francisco, KOA Denver, WTAM Cleveland, WLW Cincinatti and WSM Nashville - all places you've either heard of or DXed because of their power and reach. (Interestingly, the closest one to us and to Buffalo is WHAM in Rochester.)

Remember those scary announcements of the Emergency Broadcast System when you were a kid, noting you would be told where to tune in the event of an actual disaster? I guess these stations are among them.

Another is the great WBZ Boston. And as the story at the link below shows, they've recently received government funds to beef up their emergency stand-by facilities at their transmitter site. And what a facility it is. According to the article from Radio World:

"The shelter includes a generator with a 60,000-gallon fuel tank and a separate studio that can be occupied for up to 60 days. It has been hardened to remain usable in the presence of chemical, biological and nuclear hazards.

"It features a 10 kW AM transmitter and a rack full of transmission equipment including IP codecs, a broadcast mixer and even an interview position with separate microphone. The shelters are made of welded steel and protect the electronic equipment from damage that could be caused by electromagnetic pulse events."


I don't know if that will make you sleep better at night or help keep you up! I'm not sure if Canada has the same sort of thing - a distribution emergency network made up of key stations nationwide and which ones they might be. I looked for a similar list here, but couldn't find one. If anyone knows, I'd love to see which ones get this special lifesaving designation - or does our Emergency System that interrupts every radio and TV station and every cell phone mean we don't need to do this here?  (And do any of them have a similar broadcast bunker? That would be a fun tour!)

FEMA Celebrates PEP Upgrade at Historic WBZ 

https://i.ibb.co/P4FX64s/radio.jpg

Map courtesy Fortwortharchitecture.com

 

October 24, 2021 6:09 pm  #2


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

I watched A Quiet Place 2 this weekend, and without giving too much away, old school radio station technology features prominently in saving humans from the creatures.

But seriously, this is neat RA. If Canada does have something like this, you'd hope for security reasons most of the details would be kept under wraps.

Last edited by betaylored (October 24, 2021 6:11 pm)

 

October 24, 2021 6:56 pm  #3


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

betaylored wrote:

I watched A Quiet Place 2 this weekend, and without giving too much away, old school radio station technology features prominently in saving humans from the creatures.

But seriously, this is neat RA. If Canada does have something like this, you'd hope for security reasons most of the details would be kept under wraps.

I don't know much about it, however I do know that CBC radio comes into play here.  That's one reason why it is available off air virtually all over the country. When working at CFOS and we were still a CBC affiliate, once or twice per month, during my air shift, sometimes more the emergency broadcast link was tested in studio .We had a phone situated near one of the racks by the logger tape that could ring at any time.  The on air announcer would answer the phone and someone at CBC would identify themselves and would ask us the code sequence that appeared numerically under what looked like some sort of electronic processor.  You would read out the code, six or seven numbers, they would read them back to you to confirm and give the time and that was it.  We also had a clip board by the phone and you would mark down the date and time when the call came. 

Anyway we were instructed whenever this phone rang, it needed to be answered (it would mute if you were doing a break) and that it was for the emergency broadcast backup that could be used in a national emergency whether it was natural disaster or in the event of war or an attack.  I understood in the case of a national emergency many commercial radio stations in the country could carry CBC radio network programming live, or if not they were to instruct listeners to tune in CBC radio for information, instructions or updates from the government.  But understand this is for something cataclysmic where there is potential or imminent massive death or immediate danger to large numbers of  people or the country.  

How much of this if any still applies today or what changes have been made, I have no idea, but this is how it was set up  back in the mid 80's.  I would imagine television had something similar.   

Last edited by paterson1 (October 24, 2021 7:09 pm)

 

October 24, 2021 7:18 pm  #4


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

I’m 99% sure that I’ve read that CBC Radio-Canada fulfils the same function in Canada, as at least one English or French radio station reaches almost all Canadians.

There are some remote areas that don’t receive a CBC radio signal or even a cellphone signal (I’ve driven across Canada, parts of Northwestern Ontario have this issue), so those area might actually rely on US clear channel signals for such situations.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (October 24, 2021 7:20 pm)

 

October 24, 2021 9:16 pm  #5


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

The most impressive part of this (in my opinion) is that PEP stations feed many other stations as well, which creates many redundant paths upon which an emergency alert could be distributed. Smart thinking. I'm surprised to learn these PEP transmitter shelters are a recent addition, with the first two going up in 2016. I would've assumed they were constructed during the cold war, especially since they're located at AM sites. 

Speaking of..... these sites should also have FM transmitters. It seems like a high budget project, so why not? If these sites used for a last-resort emergency broadcast, then in all likelihood the main communication networks are down, and I don't think the majority of people would even think to flip through the AM dial. Additionally, many radio's (in some cars and standalone sets) don't even have AM these days, and that percentage will continue to rise. Plus, many people in downtown urban areas will not receive the AM signal very well either.. the very areas that are most likely to be hit by an attack. I think AM is a smart idea in terms of reach, but they might as well put a small FM Tx up on the existing AM mast or similar. You could even have all those FM's on the same frequency such as 91.1 (i.e. 911) so you could promote that as easy to remember in the event of an issue. Not like the adjacent frequencies would care much since the world is ending anyways! ;) 

Wishful thinking, I know! 

Glad to hear about a potential CBC emergency plan here in Canada. As I noted in another thread, I'm not crazy about Pelmorex running all of Canada's emergency alerts out of two facilities. Hopefully CBC has a backup system in place that can quickly reach Canadians with actual live audio. 

 

October 24, 2021 9:21 pm  #6


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Most certainly needs to (also) be on FM, but bigger than that, it needs to be on mobile. In downtown Toronto, for example, not enough people who are not in their cars would even have a radio handy. Almost 100% would have a phone, though.


 
 

October 25, 2021 9:04 am  #7


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

This is all very nice in theory, but there are a lot of situations where it won't help.
1) Most AM towers aren't up to current structural codes, let alone being able to survive hurricane force winds greater than Category 2 or the shock wave from a nuclear blast.
2) 60,000 gallons doesn't make sense. The consumption of a 100 kW diesel generator at full load is about 10 US gallons per hour. A 60,000 gallon oil tank would be huge. 60,000 litres makes more sense.
3) Diesel fuel goes stale, and under best case conditions might last 1.5 to 2 years. That's why most diesel generator installations have capacity for a few days of operation at most, and need to be replenished. During hurricane events, hospitals are given the priority for fuel delivery.

As to the CBC's official role as emergency broadcaster, that fell by the wayside many years ago. The National Public Alerting System is the operative agency, and is designed to use all wireless modes (AM, FM, TV and cellular) as well as social media. All broadcast stations, even low power, are mandated to have automated equipment installed to allow transmission of emergency alerts.

 

October 25, 2021 10:33 am  #8


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Very interesting.  It's a good thing none of America's enemies have access to this. ;)


- Not an industry person.  Just a guy with a love of Toronto radio. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.gif
 

October 25, 2021 3:01 pm  #9


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

When my father was in CF-100's during the cold war, he told me in later years that the CBC was where they were to tune to if the Air Force went off the air and the 401 was the emergency strip for fuel and rearming.  There was a lack of bridges then.  

 

November 18, 2021 11:02 am  #10


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Here's another one on the left coast. It's KIRO-AM in Seattle. In the event of an emergency, "if the situation is dire enough, every radio station in the Puget Sound area will rebroadcast KIRO-AM’s signal.”

The same thing happened during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, when WWL was going out over dozens of stations, even those owned by a different company. Even with our Emergency System, I would like to see this kind of thing done here. Hopefully, it would never be needed.


KIRO Radio ready to serve in case of emergency

On that topic, though, there's an ad that runs every week in the Thornhill Liberal (and presumably other York Region area Metroland newspapers.) Here's what is says:

https://i.ibb.co/BZzspkj/Radio.jpg


105.9 is CFMS, aka The Region, a little listened to station in Markham that serves York Region. It says it's the "Official Emergency Station." Is that an actual official designation? If not, how did they come by it? Or is this just made up for advertising purposes? I can't recall another station in the GTA making this claim and there's nothing on their website about it. I doubt a weak FM signal that doesn't reach very far and few know about would be the go-to choice if there's a crisis in the area. 

     Thread Starter
 

November 18, 2021 11:18 am  #11


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Update: I was curious about the above designation, so I called the City of Markham, which pays for this double paged ad every single week in the local paper. The guy I got in touch with not only couldn't answer my question, but (like most) had never even heard of CFMS-FM. And he works for Markham! 

As far as I know, there isn't a single Toronto radio station that claims to be the "official" go-to spot in the event of a catastrophe, so I'd be very curious to know - if its own city doesn't know about this, where did this idea come from and how can they make this claim every seven days in an ad paid for by the city itself?

     Thread Starter
 

November 18, 2021 1:49 pm  #12


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

That's very strange if the Markham city employee said he wasn't aware of the station or didn't know what you were talking about and just left it at that.  Normally when I call city hall or the region and if the person can't give me any information, they will forward you to someone else or up the food chain.  Or at the very least put you through to the department that runs the ad every week in the local paper.  Did you ask him to put you through to someone else who could help you?

 

 

November 18, 2021 1:52 pm  #13


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Actually, to be fair, the call was disconnected partway through and I didn't want to waste any more of his time - or mine - to call back. But he didn't sound like he was too worried about it, so I didn't pursue it. It was clear, though, from the few minutes I had with him that he had no idea what I was talking about.

     Thread Starter
 

November 18, 2021 2:19 pm  #14


Re: The U.S. Radio Stations That Will (Hopefully) Survive A Nuclear Attack

Unless the guy was in the city of Markham advertising or marketing department he likely wouldn't know anything about the weekly ad.  Especially if he was the receptionist answering all calls.  Still odd though that he wouldn't have put you through to the department even after a few seconds of your conversation. Usually whenever I have phoned city hall and getting into my spiel, the person at the other end will say, oh you want to talk to (whatever department).