LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!


Posted by Elise on April 29, 2010

Breaking News

San Marcos Takes to the Airwaves

City Acquires AM Radio Station for Emergencies

By Scott McClintock

 Synopsis:  The City of San Marcos has acquired a transmitter and a license to operate AM radio station 1610.  The station will be deployed during wildfires and other emergencies to provide traffic, evacuation, and other important information specific to the San Marcos area.  The City intends to eventually operate the station on a full-time basis to provide traffic, road conditions and other community current events.

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Article:  The San Marcos Fire Department is encouraging all San Marcos area residents to set a button on their car radios at 1610 on the AM band.   The department has acquired equipment and a license from the Federal Communications Commission to operate a specialized Traffic Advisory Station on that frequency.  This relatively low-power 10-watt system is the same type used in national parks and large airports to relay directions and localized current events.

The Fire Department utilized $10,500 of State Homeland Security Grant funds to purchase the transmitter and antenna, which will be run from the city’s Emergency Operations Center on Mata Way.  If the city or its environs are affected by wildfires, earthquakes, terrorist attack, large transportation accidents, or any other disaster that impacts traffic flow or evacuations, the radio station will be broadcasting the pertinent information that residents and passers-through will need to know.

“This system does not replace Reverse-911 or the 511 and 211 telephone information services that are currently used – it supplements those systems with very localized, San Marcos-specific information” said Fire Chief Todd Newman.  The Chief reiterated the importance of citizens registering their home and cell phone numbers with the Alert San Diego “Reverse-911” system at  “When that wind-driven wildfire is bearing down on your backyard fence in the middle of the night, Reverse-911 can wake you up and tell you to evacuate.  Then, you can punch in 1610 and learn more detailed information such as which roads to use, where to go, and when the evacuation is lifted.”

Because of the low, 10-watt power the station puts out, household radios will probably not hear the signal.  That is why residents are encouraged to use their car radios.

Additionally, the new radio station can be immune from electricity outages.  If the disaster interrupts power, the transmitter will be powered by generator, and car radios are powered by the car’s battery.  That way residents can still receive critical information and will not be dependent on electrical appliances during a blackout.

The city also intends to use the system to call in its over 100 volunteers in the event they are needed.  The volunteers will be trained so that when they see, hear, smell, or feel a large emergency, they will go to their cars and push the 1610 button for instructions on where to report and what items to bring with them.  The city’s volunteers include the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), San Marcos MetroNet (ham radio operators), Volunteer Rangers, Trauma Support Volunteers, and the Fire Department’s Senior Volunteers.

You won’t hear advertisements or music on this station.  The FCC regulates the content of the broadcasts on Traffic Advisory Stations and strictly prohibits commercials, political messages, and even the mention of private businesses.

Over the next year, the city and Cal State San Marcos will be installing permanent infrastructure and software for the transmitter.  When this work is complete, the station will be ready to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on recorded messages.  The city plans to partner with the Vallecitos Water District, the Sheriff’s Department, Cal State San Marcos, Palomar College, Cal Trans, the Highway Patrol and the Sprinter to provide daily updated road conditions, and other need-to-know information.   Then, when disaster strikes, trained city and volunteer staff will load the recorded loop with potentially life and property-saving details.

Do your home and your family an important deed:  Set a button on your car radio to AM 1610.


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