New Jersey and Missouri broadcasters embrace Alert FM


The New Jersey and Missouri State Broadcasters Associations have joined Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee in supporting Alert FM. The FM radio-based personal alerting and messaging system will get a pitch next week in Las Vegas when it will be demonstrated at FEMA’s NAB booth.

Alert FM from Global Security Systems (GSS) uses the existing Radio Data Service (RDS) system to allow local, state and national emergency managers to deliver emergency alert messages to any electronic device with an FM receiver, including those that are wireless or mobile.

“In any emergency, FM radio’s single-point to multi-point transmission assures the delivery of critical information to an infinite number of FM-enabled devices simultaneously – a huge advantage over wireless broadband’s point-to-point system which overloads and jams in that scenario,” noted Paul Rotella, President and CEO, New Jersey Broadcasters Association.   “Expanding the availability of FM on a variety of devices and implementing Alert FM at local radio stations will save more lives,” he added.

More than 60 Members of Congress have advocated the inclusion of FM receivers on mobile phones for Emergency Alert System (EAS) notifications. That prompted a recent rash of letters from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noting that cellular companies must develop a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) by 2012. One way to achieve that is Alert FM, although Genachowski noted that the FCC’s standards for CMAS “do not require or prohibit the use of Alert FM.”

“The activation of the standard FM receiver chip that already resides in the majority of mobile phones in use in the U.S. will save lives right now. By putting Alert FM into operation, radio can provide an immediate and highly effective emergency alerting system that optimizes the existing FM infrastructure to reach targeted or widespread groups of people with life-saving messages,” said Don Hicks, President and CEO, Missouri Broadcasters Association. 

“We are grateful to Paul and Don for their support of FM radio-based emergency alerts in their respective states of New Jersey and Missouri. By advocating the accessibility of FM on an extensive array of devices, including those that are mobile, radio can continue to make a difference in the lives of the people in the markets they serve,” said Alert FM COO TJ Lambert. 

Alert FM will operate the FM radio-based personal alerting system as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) during the NAB Show.

RBR-TVBR observation: While only the text messaging capability of Alert FM would be necessary for the cellular companies to comply with CMAS standards, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan and other broadcasters have been lobbying the mobile phone companies for years to include a fully functional FM receiver in their handsets. It would be a win-win for broadcasters and the cell companies. The audio service would add value in emergency situations, above and beyond the emergency text messaging. At other times, people would be free to listen to local radio and not tie up bandwidth on the cell system just to listen to music.

As Rotella noted, point-to-multi-point FM delivery would be far more reliable than cellular texting to individual phones. It would also, as Smulyan has pointed out repeatedly, save the wireless phone companies a lot of money over developing and maintaining their own alerting system.