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July 22, 2010
Dennis Wharton
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Testimony of Whit Adamson Before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development

WASHINGTON, DC -- Whit Adamson, president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters is scheduled to testify this morning before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development in a hearing concerning the 2010 Tennessee flooding.

Below is a transcript of his oral testimony as prepared:


Good morning Members of the Committee. My name is Whit Adamson. Since 1987, I have been the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters in Nashville. The TAB is thankful to Senator Alexander for requesting this hearing and his ongoing support for improving disaster communications. I look forward to sharing with you the valuable, often life-saving, public service that full power local radio and television stations provide during times of disaster.

Broadcasters are proven, reliable tools in the face of disaster. Even if the electricity is out, causing the Internet and cable television to go down, or cell coverage is inoperable due to congested networks; free, over-the-air broadcasters can still be on the air, delivering vital information to battery-operated receivers. In addition to our on-going, comprehensive news coverage of emergencies, broadcasters are also the backbone of the Emergency Alert System or EAS, including AMBER Alerts.

Nationwide, AMBER Alerts have helped safely recover more than 500 abducted children since broadcasters created this program in 1996. In Tennessee, we have one of the best AMBER Alert programs in the country thanks to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. EAS, which is a largely wireless network that connects over-the-air radio, television and cable systems, is used during sudden, unpredictable or unforeseen events.

Participation in the EAS is technically voluntary, yet virtually all radio and television stations participate, and do so proudly. EAS equipment is purchased by broadcasters at their own expense, and stations must test their EAS systems on both a weekly and monthly basis. We have all seen or heard the familiar announcement: "The following is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test."

We are proud of the actions of our broadcasters before and after the flooding in Tennessee. One of the most critical reporting jobs that weekend came from a small radio station, WUCZ-FM in Carthage. Dennis Banka's station is located at the mouth of the Caney Fork River, 28 miles below the Center Hill Dam on the Cumberland River and 153 miles below the Wolf Creek Dam. Due to the known instability of both these dams, a local state representative could get critical information by cell phone, relayed directly from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Mitchell, to the station and then out to the public. Emergency exercises of this type had never been tested before in this area.

Last year, the TAB launched a project with the Office of Emergency Management and Mayor Dean's Office in Nashville to improve local implementation of EAS alerts. Mayor Karl Dean is to be commended for his ongoing work in this area. The goal of this plan enables authorities to act as the true "civil authority" to test our EAS system and to create the opportunity to initiate real alerts.

The ongoing reliability and success of the EAS network depends on several important developments. First, funding would help support expanded training of local public safety officials in how to use EAS. Currently, there is an unacceptable level in the knowledge and expertise of local authorities in how to and when to deploy EAS. These funds could be distributed through FEMA, which could also design a training and education program.

Second, FEMA is in the midst of implementing a next generation of EAS, which will modernize the technology and the computer language used to deliver EAS messages. It will require most broadcasters to replace their EAS equipment. The expense of such equipment is beyond the means of some broadcast stations and local governments. Some entities may even be forced to opt out of participating in EAS, at least for a period of time. Federal funding would be critical to aiding broadcasters and local governments in fully implementing FEMA's plans for a next-generation EAS.

Third, for at little or no cost, cell phone manufacturers could include FM radio receivers in phones to give consumers important, mobile access to radio services, including EAS messages. Broadcasters are grateful for the encouragement we have received from Congress in favor of expanding mobile access to radio service.

We are also excited about our future in Mobile DTV. Currently being deployed right here in Washington, DC and in number of markets around the country, this technology will bring the benefits of over-the-air television to the mobile generation, including live, local emergency information.

Finally, in Tennessee, we are continually pursuing the modernization of our emergency notification system. Tennessee public safety officials, broadcasters, and others are working together to develop this new system. Tennessee is home to several potential terrorist targets, and is also extremely prone to severe weather conditions. Improving our local notification system could very well save lives. Funding support for this endeavor will be critical to completing this task.

I am grateful for this opportunity to share my views on emergency communications in Tennessee as well as nationally and look forward to working with you. Thank you.


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