Saturday, May 21, 2005

Radio group, Flagler join for 'Hurricane updates

Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal

BUNNELL -- Bill Grady was cut off and in the dark when Hurricane Frances blew through last year -- just like almost everyone else in Flagler County.

Television stations didn't focus on Flagler and the only local radio stations lost power. Frustrated, county spokesman Carl Laundrie tried to get airtime, but he couldn't deliver his 18 or 19 press releases to residents.

"Flagler County wasn't getting coverage," Laundrie said.

But that changed. After Frances, the county partnered with Black Crow Media, a company with five radio stations in the Daytona Beach area, to broadcast important Flagler information during Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne. Just in time for this year's hurricane season, Flagler officials are streamlining the process even more to get the word out during disasters.

The county recently spent $17,000 to buy broadcasting equipment, and officials are currently setting up a booth inside the Emergency Operations Center, Laundrie said.

The county also signed a contract with Black Crow that calls for radio reporters to broadcast from the center and relay emergency information, which will give them immediate access to emergency management staff.

Emergency Services Director Doug Wright said it's critical to keep people informed about evacuations, shelters and post-hurricane services such as debris cleanup. But the county couldn't during Hurricane Frances.

Grady said he kept listening for information, but it never came.

"You're wondering what's going on, and you're just sitting there in the dark," said Grady, 68, who evacuated from Flagler Beach to Palm Coast.

Under the contract with Black Crow, the company will broadcast Flagler information from each of the five stations, and the news will be available across the county.

Laundrie said he wants to help families riding out the storm with only a battery-powered radio and a flashlight.

"It's frustrating for residents when there's a storm raging outside, and they don't even know what's happening in their own back yard," Laundrie said.

Grady said the county's efforts after Frances worked, and he had plenty of information during the following hurricanes.

"I look forward to having as much information as we had during the last two hurricanes that came through," Grady said.

Mark Williams, news director for Black Crow, was unavailable for comment Friday.

The contract with Black Crow is only a short-term fix. In time, the county wants to partner with the Flagler County School Board and get a noncommercial FM radio license from the Federal Communications Commission to handle emergency broadcasts in house.

The county expects the costs to be $75,000. Laundrie said it would take about five years to get the license.

Hurricane News

This hurricane season, Flagler County residents will be able to tune into the following Black Crow Media radio stations for county-related information:

WNDB 1150 AM

WNDA 1490 AM

WKRO 93.1 FM

WHOG 95.7 FM

WVYB 103.3 FM


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