Commonwealth and Cromwell adopt Alert FM


As broadcasters continue to lobby for the inclusion of FM chips in cell phones and other portable devices to enhance emergency communications, two radio groups announced plans to equip their stations with the Alert FM system.

Alert FM, from Global Security Systems (GSS) uses RDS text-messaging technology so that stations can distribute local emergency messages, even when other forms of communication are rendered unusable by natural or man-made disasters. Commonwealth Broadcasting and The Cromwell Group announced that they are partnering with Alert FM to have their stations be able to deliver potentially life-saving emergency information to their communities.

“The need to deliver critical emergency information to the public on whatever electronic device they might be using, including those that are wireless, makes Alert FM a great addition to our radio stations,” said Commonwealth CEO Steve Newberry, who also happens to be Chairman of the NAB Joint Board. His company’s stations are all in small markets in Kentucky.

“FM-based text alerts can and will save lives. Clearly, the impact of new electronic devices on how Americans access information dictates that radio must adopt new communication methods to remain relevant and at the forefront of community public service,” stated Bud Walters, CEO of The Cromwell Group, which has stations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

Recently installed Alert FM COO T.J. Lambert, a long-time radio industry veteran, applauded the two group owners for their commitment to public service. “Listeners in markets served by Commonwealth Broadcasting and Cromwell Group stations will benefit from the increased accessibility and communications options that Alert FM offers,” he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized Alert FM and its partners to validate FM radio data chips and RDS messaging for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). FEMA will showcase FM Radio-Based Alerting during the NAB Show this month in Las Vegas.
Radio stations can make use of Alert FM technology to send data such as artist and song title, station tagline or slogan, plus advertiser messages and song-tagging for a potentially lucrative revenue stream. RDS encoders are supplied to participating stations at no cost. 

RBR-TVBR observation: The IPAWS project by FEMA is a good step forward. What would really help is for the cell companies to step up inclusion of FM receivers/texting in their phones. We all know that cell phone systems and cable television tend to fail in emergency situations when power is knocked out. Mobile DTV is still in its infancy, so the only truly dependable delivery system for information in many emergencies is radio.