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There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Discussion pertaining to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, and Michiana
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Reese K Rickards
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There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by Reese K Rickards » Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:36 am

MatthewMcKenzie writes in the thread titled " 3 Grand Rapids stations were dead air on Sunday afternoon"...... "Hate to say it, but does anyone really turn to the radio anymore for any sort of public news/information or warnings? Sadly, the days of having to have a body in the building are pretty much gone."

The answer to the question is Yes......if the listeners are trained to expect news from their radio station. The "Part B' answer to the question is no. There is not single radio station in Grand Rapids doing any thing resembling news. A good example are the summers riots. Even venerable old WOOD AM didn't cover the story. Half a dozen years ago the wife and I were driving to Sand Lake on M-37 when a ferocious storm blew in off the lake. The black cloud squall line was terrifying. By the time we reached 17 mile road the hail was battering the car, and people were stopping to help motorcycle riders caught in the storm. I would have gone in to cover it, but I had had a dozen chickens I'd just bought in a box in the back seat. I provided the best coverage I could from the phone in the car. Venerable ol' WOOD Radio...nothing.

I make these points because every single township in West Michigan has a disaster preparedness plan, and step one reads. "To spread official news and information call the "Grand Rapids Area Information Line." GRAIL as it was known was a cooperative adventure designed to share information among all local radio and TV stations. That included school closings.
But GRAIL is dead. It no longer exists, even though stations like WOOD still have a printer designated for GRAIL, no one knows what it does.

The day will come when there is a chemical explosion or a train wreck, and the part time Township supervisor must get official information out to the public. On that day he or she will be very very surprised. And THEN... residents will want to know why they were never warned. Heaven help the townships if there is loss of life.

If I Heart GR really wanted to save money, it would sublet two of it's three floors at 77 Monroe Center.

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Re: There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by oldnewsguy » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:39 am

Sadly, the majority of people today turn first to the interwebs to get anything. TV is next, then anything else resembling an information source. When I was on the job, decades ago, the radio was a reliable and up to date source of information. Nowadays, not so much. I no longer listen to AM or FM, but subscribe to the 'bird in the sky' for my entertainment, both at home and while mobile. I miss the 'good old days,' but then again, I am old.

Home of the FREE, because of the BRAVE!

Jason Kragt
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Re: There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by Jason Kragt » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:49 am

The best they can do is simulcast a TV station that actually does have news. I was chasing a tornado from Hamilton to Wyoming a while back and the only station with any information was WOOD, and that was only because they were rebroadcasting the TV-8 audio stream. We had an active tornado moving toward a densely populated area and radio was helpless. It was pure luck that this didn't become a major disaster because the tornado lifted off the ground and stayed up once it got to Wyoming.

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Re: There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by zackeast » Wed Dec 09, 2020 10:57 am

I'd have to say that I hope this will certainly be less of a factor now that most of us doing shows from home were given access to remote 'boards' and controls that will allow us to at least log in from home and turn something on or up, or even go live from home. I personally feel lucky at how many toys we've been given to use that I haven't had to step in the studio since March. Hell, I even have a magicjack line attached to a Gentner.

Additionally, having managed some EAS stuff locally, their ability to get things sent via satellite EmNet to stations as quickly as they are, and then email that information and audio simultaneously, has also helped keep people safer. Removing the relay delay of stations stepping the same message around has been amazing. That is, when State EOC isn't sending test messages as real alerts...

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Re: There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by sand2dunes » Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:07 pm

Hi Reese

I do remember during severe weather, you would keep the B-93 listeners
informed during severe weather, often calling from your house with updates.

That was back in the day, when B-93 had a live DJ for every shift.

Those days are long gone.

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Re: There will be some very surprised people if West Michigan ever has a real disaster,

Post by MatthewMckenzie » Wed Dec 09, 2020 11:17 pm

Reese did an outstanding job keeping people up to Date on B93... having been a part of several of those. I remember calling Reese at home Saturday AM when the shuttle dissapeared - Within two minutes, he was on the air. I was at the controls and he was on the phone from home - that's how quickly it happened. 2 Minutes. Nothing anywhere close to that could happen in the same way today. (Back then, this was Saturday AM there were 2 people in the building.. myself (I would bounce back between B93 and "The Fox" 101.3 doing a live show there) and sometimes an operator at the WOODAM studio - that was it) Give credit where it's due, he did a great job covering breaking news and severe weather. B93 was always there. - With a H*** signal, large audience and LIVE bodies almost 24/7 I would argue it would be *the* station to tune into in the event of a disaster, news and weather- even moreso than WOOD-AM - even though they were literally next door to each other in the building.

Reese's point is dead on. People have to be trained to tune into radio for such information, and well, with very little live radio - no one does much anymore in my view. 20 years ago I would say they were. One truth remains, radio is by far the most reliable in severe weather and most disasters. You can get a radio signal with very little battery power. Cell phone is great, but the minute the tower is down, say goodbye to your 4 or 5g.

- Matt

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