KSL NewsRadio’s role as “first informers” in any emergency

Feb 29, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: 8:08 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — In the worst-case scenario, like a terrible earthquake, terrorist attack, electromagnetic pulse, severe storms and flooding, how would you get the information that could save your life? From KSL NewsRadio. We have been selected to be what the Federal Emergency Management Agency calls “first informers.”

“Your role, like the role of KIRO [Radio] in Seattle or WBZ in Boston, is to be first informers,” said Manuel Centeno, the director of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning Sytem at FEMA.

“So when something happens, your role is to be the only station that can reach the public in your area. Your role is to continue to broadcast life-saving information to help keep people safe and alive in your area of coverage.”

How would KSL NewsRadio help in an emergency?

What if an earthquake takes out our home at Broadcast House in Salt Lake City?

FEMA built two container-like structures near our transmitter — miles away from the city. These structures have redundant systems to keep power flowing, keep the air breathable and keep us on the air.

I could live in one of these structures for two months if I had to.

fema emergency shelter

(Amanda Dickson/KSL NewsRadio)

Born in the Cold War

This emergency program has been around since the mid-1990s.

“It’s called the National Public Warning System,” Centeno explained.

“It was born out of a Cold War requirement so that we, the federal government, can communicate with Americans in times of dire need or emergency. It has evolved a bit. It’s not only available to the President of the United States to send messages to the American public but also state and local government.”

KSL NewsRadio’s job is to make sure that you can hear what the president has to say, and what the governor or other leaders need you to know, in times of emergency.

Why was KSL NewsRadio chosen?

There are 77 National Public Warning System stations across the country. They are selected based on population coverage. KSL NewsRadio, with both an AM and FM signal, in addition to website and social media coverage, reaches most of the western United States and beyond.

I remember hearing from listeners in California during times of tragedy there. When we opened the phone lines after the first Gulf War began, we took calls from Kansas to Canada.

Population coverage is the first criterion.

(Randall Jeppesen/KSL NewsRadio)

The second, as Centeno explained, “is [the] willingness of station owners and operators. Can they provide some time and respond to emergencies by keeping the station on the air? And do they have facilities and space to install the equipment?”

We are all volunteers in this effort.

“FEMA doesn’t pay the station a dime,” Centeno said. “It’s invaluable public service that KSL is offering to its listeners.”

Already helped the public

There have already been instances in which these stations have been the only source of information to the public.

“In some cases, like at WWL in New Orleans, the station has served as a point of communication between a rescuer and a person who needs to be rescued,” he said. “It’s critical and extremely important that we maintain lines of communication with the public when no other communication is available.”

If the power goes out, if your phone isn’t working and you can’t reach anyone by computer or other digital means, how will you know when it’s safe? How will you know who’s out there ready to help you?

I might suggest having a battery-powered radio in every emergency kit.

“Radio is the backbone of our ability to warn the public of imminent danger,” Centeno said. “We know that it will remain so for a very long time to come. We at FEMA want to make sure that the public has radios available to them so they can receive information and that there are responsible broadcasters available to get that out to the public.”

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


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KSL NewsRadio’s role as “first informers” in any emergency