So what happens in an emergency when you tune to local radio stations for information and all you can get are automated stations with the same pre-recorded music and off-color DJ chat? Residents of Minot, ND found out the hard way in 2002 when a train derailment released clouds of toxic anhydrous ammonia. Critics allege the incident demonstrates the dangers of media consolidation and automation.
In a letter to the FCC, Clear Channel, owners of the station, point to local authorities whose Emergency Alert System (EAS) failed to relay emergency information to the radio station. Neither radio station personnel nor police could call each other because the phone lines were jammed with residents frantic for information.
The incident highlights the importance of closer coordination between radio stations and emergency personnel – including more frequent testing of the equipment that is supposed to keep us all informed in case of emergency.