By Roy L Hales
Cortes Radio possesses a technology that will enable it to continue broadcasting even if a major disaster takes out the grid and internet. On July 19, Shaun Koopman Protective Services Coordinator for the Strathcona Regional District, brought a team of volunteers from Campbell River and Gold River. For about twenty minutes, CKTZ stopped broadcasting through-out 99% of its area while we performed the first successful test of Radio-in-a-box in front of the station at Mansons Landing, Cortes Island.
CKTZ’s Radio In A Box Test Successful
In the podcast above you will hear Lorne Gottschewski, from CKTZ’s Eclectic Selection, announce, “We’re testing the CKTZ emergency broadcast system. Please be patient, we will return to normal programming any moment.”
It was shortly after noon during Mansons Friday Market. In the background of the photo I took of Lorne’s broadcast, you can see Barry Glickman and Howie Roman in the CKTZ booth. There are a number of parked cars in the picture of Alex Michaels, beside the new three tier station that he built so we can keep our radio-in-a box assembled and ready to use. A cluster of spectators assembled to watch us. Koopman muttered that he wished we’d let him know it would be market day. (Oops.)
The first sign of success came through people listening to the radio through their cel phones.
Then Sharon Johnson, from the Gold River Emergency Communication Team, reported, “I was just down by the Co-op and i could hear the broadcast coming through the radio-in-a-box. It was a little scratchy, but came through okay.”
Going Forward With Radio -In-A-Box
More hardware will be needed, to boost the power, before our radio-in-a-box can broadcast through-out most of our current area. Though there will be dead spots, we should be able to reach much of Cortes, Quadra and Read islands, as well as Campbell River.
“The Strathcona Regional District has signed a memorandum of understanding, with the awesome folks at CKTZ, 89.5 FM, to serve as the Strathcona Regional District’s direct operation’s centre public broadcasting system. Information is aid; messaging saves lives. So to have a method for our local government to send out a message that will be broadcast exactly … as we ask them to send it out at a community level is an expedential aid to the residents we are aiming to serve,” says Koopman.
“After a major emergency, we’re going to be getting coverage at the national level, but what’s happening at the national level is not so relevant to the people at Squirrel Cove and Mansons Landing. They want to know when aid is coming; when is power restoration coming on; when will routes open up – and that information is provided at the local level.”
The Packet System
CKTZ’s packet system was installed more than a year ago. At that time, Barry Glickman explained, “They get essentially an email, a fax, and so it provides a way of communicating with the community … we call it error free.” Should a major disaster occur, Cortes Radio’s communications team will read these messages out over the air. “
Since then, the Glickmans have focused their attention on developing the Strathcona Regional District’s emergency communications network.
A Team Of Radio Operators
Amanda explained, “We now have a team of radio operators in the Campbell River area, Strathcona Regional District. We went from having basically nobody in 2015/16 other than me, Barry and a few people on Quadra Island – to a team of about forty people now.”
I met a few of the people the Glickmans trained over coffee at the Co-Op. Fred Perkins; Alex Michaels and Dan Mayville were members of the Campbell River Communications Team. Sharon Johnson came from Gold River. After testing out CKTZ’s radio -in-a-box, we joined Koopman and the Glickmans to train on some ham radio equipment at Smelt Bay. (You can learn more about that in the podcast)
Top credit: Some of the team with Radio in a Box (l to r): Amanda Glickman, Shaun Koopman (behind, wearing sunglasses), Alex Michaels beside the three tier set-up he built for radio-in-a-box – Roy L Hales photo