Former head of FEMA concerned about removal of vehicle radios

The former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Brock Long posted an editorial in today’s The Detroit News concerned about auto manufacturers decisions to removed AM/FM radio from dashboard entertainment/navigation systems.  Already, Tesla has removed AM radio from it’s electric vehicles citing interference problems as reported in a recent article in RadioWorld.  Other car makers are now questioning the need to provide conventional radios in these increasingly complex & sophisticated dash systems. Long notes 95% of Americans own a vehicle.  He states: “The public need to be made aware of breaking threats, hazards and alerts while they are traveling. Beyond that, though, the American people need a connection that can withstand even the worst of natural disasters. The National Public Warning System achieves both objectives.”  FEMA has spent over $100 million to equip broadcasters with generators & other emergency equipment to ensure messages get through in times of disaster, often when power or Internet disruptions potentially fail to deliver critical news & info to those affected.  He notes: “No other means of electronic communications in the country is as efficient or reliable as the radio. In fact, presently, these broadcasts are the only method the government has to reach every point in the country. The utility of radios during emergencies has been incalculable. Just ask the Michigan residents victimized by the 2012 Dexter tornado, the Grand Rapids flood of 2013, and the Great Flood of 1986 how critical radio broadcasts were in remaining informed and safe during these natural disasters.” He also adds Hurricanes Sandy & Harvey as disasters that disrupted online communication & the electric power grids.  Brock Long goes on to say: “FEMA recognizes the importance of preserving and strengthening the signal of broadcast stations. Recently, the Agency added even more backup facilities, costing $1.5 million apiece, along with more stations. Nevertheless, the full benefits of these tens of millions of dollars in federal internal improvements will never be realized should automakers continue to strip radios from more of their new makes and models.  Just as boats and planes need to carry life vests, so do cars need to carry radios. Taking them out puts consumers at risk, plain and simple.” He concludes with a desire to have auto makers re-think plans to drop conventional AM/FM radios from their dashboards.  The need for car makers to realize that dashboard systems are more than just entertainment & that these have the means to inform the public during times of critical importance must continue to be stressed.

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Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

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