In the movie, 2012, Woody Harrelson’s character, Charlie Frost, shares with Jackson Curtis, played by John Cusack, his suspicions about the impending end for the world and that world governments, rather than warn citizens, were complicit in a plot to build “spaceships” and whisk off wealthy families to safety. Later in the film we find Charlie Frost using mobile ham radio to broadcast to his radio listeners a description of Yosemite National Park exploding with some of Charlie’s last words being, “It’s so beautiful.”
It’s at this point that some of us may be softly singing the lyrics to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”, and may even share doomed Charlie Frost’s fear that the government is incompetent when addressing natural disasters. Hurricane season has begun and the memory of Katrina, an event that may not have ended the world but changed the world for many, still haunts some in the Gulf region eight years since she struck.
Louisiana took another step to address communications issues that could arise during another natural disaster like Katrina or even a man-made event when it announced an enhancement to the state’s emergency warning system. The Alert FM and GSSNet systems are designed to improve the way voice and text notifications of emergencies are sent out across the state. Both systems, according to Louisiana’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP), are designed to provide a redundant method of communicating with the state’s citizens during an emergency.
The alert network won’t be restricted just to a FM-radio based system. Citizens may also take advantage of mobile broadband innovation by downloading an ALERT FM app on to their Apple iOS or Android devices.
ALERT FM provides a unique method of transmitting emergency and other notifications because the system uses the data subcarrier of local FM radio transmission towers. According to OHSEP, using a pre-existing network of FM towers provides overlapping and redundant communications. Ninety FM radio stations across Louisiana will participate in the ALERT FM network.
“Because Louisiana experiences both natural and manmade disasters, the state needs a reliable, redundant way to provide alerts and notifications quickly to our citizens, said Kevin Davis, GOHSEP Director. “In order to make sure that we are communicating with the public during the most extreme circumstances, we acquired ALERT FM and GSSNet, which will provide the State, the parishes and colleges and universities with a redundant means of keeping our citizens informed.”