Katrina Blog:

Ballardvale Research has posted a list of "Best Practices" for the Top 30 College/University Crisis Management Responses to Hurricane Katrina.

Dartmouth, Duke, and MIT are singled out as exemplary in their response. Dartmouth established a Katrina blog for those displaced by the hurricane, and those trying to locate victims of the hurricane here. A blog is a useful way in a situation like this of centralizing dispersed information in an interactive way from individuals searching for one another when communications are sporadic (Ballardville calls it a "down and dirty" repsonse). MIT, interestingly and appropriately enough, created a message board for contributing engineering ideas for responding to the crisis.

What a difference from the old days when I was a kid and the tv would interrupt my afternoon cartoons do its "test of the emergency broadcasting system"!


I am told that the old emergency broadcasting signal is still around--I guess my ignorance is yet another way in which TiVo has changed the way in which I watch television.

Um .. my tv still interrupts programs for tests of the emergency broadcasting system, although it is a strip of closed-caption-like text rather than the whole screen now. the noise is still the same.

As a government program, the TV emergency broadcasting system will live forever, even past the point where we all have chips in our brain directly wired into an OnStar-like system.
9.17.2005 11:23am
Larry Faria (mail):
The EBS is a sham. Here in San Diego, we had a fire that consumed an area almost the size of Rhode Island and caused the evacuation of 150,000 people, and the EBS wasn't used. Local TV stations stayed on and were criticized by evacuees for not getting information to people in the path of the wind-driven fire.
A number of families were told at 10 PM by local officials that they were safe, only to be rousted from their beds 5 hours later and told they had minutes to grab what they could and get out.
There was no EBS to give them the critical information they needed to arrange for an orderly evacuation here, and I'll bet it wasn't used anywhere for Katrina.
I still see the test on cable, and I respond by complaining about the interruption to my cable provider. The next time, I 'll be sending letters to my government representatives demanding they drop the system or have the guts to tell the profit-driven TV and radio stations to get off the air during an emergency.
9.17.2005 1:35pm
Maine Public Radio, which was the state's official emergency radio service, collapsed almost immediately in the week-long ice storm in '98.

Drolly, the commercial station which (brilliantly) took up the slack, WVOM, at one point interviewed MPR's programming chief as he worked as a Red Cross volunteer.
9.17.2005 1:55pm
Here in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the EBS over the radio is very useful. (I don't know about TV. I don't watch local broadcast enought to be sure) They interrupt their brodcast with the 3 bursts of static and the tone, then give their message, which is usually a thunderstorm or tornado warning. The last one I remember was for a wildfire just north of the canal here in Houghton. The broadcast happens on all stations in the area that I listen to within a few minutes of each other. (If I turn on the radio and catch the end of one, I flip stations until I find another one)
9.17.2005 11:11pm
EAS (Emergency Alert System, the post 1997 descendant of EBS; new name along with new coding and tech) has the fun problem that it needs to be activated by the local OEM.

Most OEMs, because EAS can cause merry hell outside the intended area, are loathe to push the button. Also, EAS is limited to specific types of emergencies, because each emergency requires coding in the firmware of the receivers at the broadcasters/cable systems.

For all that, however, EAS is still very widely used in most of the country, with virtually every radio and TV station (and cable system) hooked up.

The EAS activation we all know and love gets supplanted, mostly, by crawls at the bottom of the screen.
9.18.2005 1:25am
Gary Leff (mail) (www):
The EAS is so important... that it wasn't activated on 9/11.

... but it did inform Connecticut residents to evacuate the state on 2/1/05 -- in error, because the evacuate button was next to the test button an the wrong one got pushed.
9.18.2005 8:01am
Gary: Note the Panic problem. If it had been activated on 9/11, it likely would have been activated long after the emergency had passed a point where the evacuation would have done any good.

(For the NYC area, the evac signal would have covered the ENTIRE city (NYC stations are licensed to serve the entire five boroughs, and various of the surrounding counties), as the system at the time couldn't get more specific. Which, if heeded, would have resulted in 7 million people trying to evacuate. That would have created a clusterf* of massive proportions.) Meanwhile, CT was just a very, very stupid console design, in no way related to the EAS itself.
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