Finding local Emergency Alert Stations in the US

Franklin Township’s Information Radio Station WRBX 655 AM 1630 logo. © Township of Franklin

Emergency Alert Stations: A great source of local information

by Mario Filippi

During the pandemic a source of local information for residents in certain areas of the country can be found on Emergency Advisory Radio stations that dot the country and provide 24/7 information pertinent to a community. Not all communities have these stations, which can be found from 1610 – 1710 kHz and operate at varying power outputs.

Author’s Yaesu FRG-100 tuned to EAS station

For example, a station I regularly hear is WRBX655 about 12 miles away in Franklin Township, NJ operating on 1630 kHz : https://www.franklintwpnj.org/Home/Components/News/News/6384/1130?cftype=News

At the moment it is broadcasting information on COVID-19 from the Center for Disease Control.  Every EAS  station has a call sign and wattage generally is from about 10 – 50 watts. However some stations do not necessarily announce their call signs so you can check theradiosource at: http://www.theradiosource.com/resources/stations-alert.htm

Now some of these stations are part of the HAR (Highway Advisory System) that broadcast on major roadways and usually have prominent road signs announcing where to tune your car’s AM radio for latest traffic conditions.  These stations were also termed TIS (Traveler’s Information Stations) at one time and were the precursors of HAR.  However, over the years the FCC allowed more leeway on what information could be broadcast and as a result these EAS stations appeared in communities and even state parks.

Temporary antenna location of North Miami Beach’s All-Creole Information Radio Station on the roof of North Miami Beach City Hall. © Information Station Specialists, Inc.
Public Information Officer Dave Zaski (left) and Thomas Cravener lead training on RadioSTAT Portable Emergency Advisory equipment at North Tahoe (CA) Fire Protection District. © Information Station Specialists, Inc.

You can look up the locations of these stations to ascertain if one serves your community but the best way is to tune regularly from 1610 – 1710 kHz.  The optimal time to listen is during daylight hours as propagation changes greatly after dark and you’ll hear commercial AM radio stations coming in and overpowering most EAS.  As for range, I’ve heard HAR stations as far away as 40 miles depending on ground wave conditions which can vary greatly. QSB is common. Many of these stations will rebroadcast NWS weather information when no pertinent emergencies exist and that is another way to spot them. Some highway stations I’ve heard will begin each broadcast loop with a tone, they’re all different in their approach.

Emergency Advisory Radio Station Installation in Aurora, Illinois. © Information Station Specialists, Inc

Attached [at the top of the page] is a picture of the author’s Yaesu FRG-100 tuned to WRBX655 from Franklin Township, New Jersey. For an antenna I’ve used a 31 foot vertical and a loop and success will depend on using an outdoor antenna but when away from the home QTH, I’ve heard many of these stations while travelling on the roadways of America, They’re a good break casual AM radio listening.  Give it a try.

Beverly Hills California Emergency Management antenna. © Information Station Specialists, Inc
Irvine, CA Emergency Radio 1640 AM logo. © City of Irvine

This article originally appeared in the SWLing Post website, with additional content added by the Radio Heritage Foundation. All material remains © the original owners and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

© Information Station Specialists, Inc.
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