If Westford residents are snowed in or have lost power, they need only turn on a simple AM radio and switch the station to 1630 to hear the latest town updates on the emergency.
Westford’s own AM radio station, consisting of an electronic box inside the police station and a radio antenna behind the building, first started when the equipment was installed in December 2013.
Since then, the broadcast has been utilized to help residents and public safety officials deal with everything from blizzards to traffic detours.
The Westford Eagle asked Westford Police Operations Administrator Tim Whitcomb, who helped implement the station, some questions on the radio station’s purpose.
How did the idea for the radio station come about?
After the ice storm of 2008, we realized we needed to enhance our methods of communicating with the residents.
Editor’s note: The ice storm of 2008 left a cold glaze across the town, weighing heavily on electrical wires which snapped, leaving more than 5,000 household without electricity – some for more than a week -- as teams of National Grid workers raced to restore power. Schools were closed for several days out of fear there could be live wires on the ground near school bus stops. Cell phones became a key means of communication but there was no electronic hub for disseminating information.
The LEPC, or Local Emergency Planning Committee, led by Emergency Management, began researching other means of public notification. We looked into reverse calling systems and AM radios as well.
We invested in a reverse calling system. This system gave us significant benefits in public notification and remains a vital part of our emergency notification system. We are now using a reverse telephone-calling product called Code Red.
We strongly urge residents to go to Westfordma.gov and register their contact information so they can receive all messages.
When the storms of 2011 hit us, we realized we needed something more to aid in getting the word out. The Blizzard of 2013 was the decision-maker.
Editor’s note: The Blizzard of 2013 dumped more than 27 inches of snow on the region and prompted then-Gov. Deval Patrick to call a state of emergency prohibiting driving on roadways. Electrical power was disrupted for thousands of customers in the Northeast.
What services does it provide?
Westford AM 1630 Radio is a licensed emergency information radio station – meaning it may broadcast information 24/7. During non-emergency times, we can broadcast information to residents and motorists about street closures, detours and delays as well as local information such as visitor information or town history.
During an emergency, however, when the situation calls for [it], we will broadcast weather-related notices and warnings, locations of shelters, etc.
Source : westford.wickedlocal.com