Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, welcomed Diane Kniowski, President and General Manager of WOOD-TV, WOTV, and WXSP, as an expert witness at yesterday's Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing. Entitled "Oversight of FirstNet and Emergency Communications," the hearing focused on how public safety officials and the general public communicate in times of emergency.
"Local broadcasters do a tremendous job of keeping our communities in southwest Michigan informed with their regular news coverage and when disaster strikes," said Upton. "While we pray for the best, it is crucial that we are prepared for the worst. The participation of local broadcasters is critical to the success of national Emergency Alert System as well as in ensuring the lines of communication remain open in times of emergency."
Kniowski appeared as a representative of the broadcast industry on the hearing's second panel, which focused on tools for communicating with the public, such as 9-1-1 service and the broadcast and wireless emergency alert systems.
In her prepared testimony, Kniowski noted, "Broadcasters' commitment to public service is never more apparent than during times of crises. During an emergency, particularly one that arises with little notice, no other industry can match the ability of broadcasting to deliver timely warnings as well as on-going, comprehensive information as the situation unfolds to millions of people simultaneously."
What is now the Emergency Alert System (EAS) began as the 1950s CONELRAD System, designed to use the nation's broadcast infrastructure to deliver civil defense information. The Emergency Broadcast System, which replaced CONELRAD in 1963, expanded beyond civil defense information to provide the public information about storms and other emergencies. As the scope of the alerts expanded, so did the number of participating outlets. Currently, EAS incorporates participation by broadcast radio, broadcast television, cable systems, satellite television providers, and satellite radio providers. The EAS has a national plan--coordinated by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management System, and the National Weather Service--in addition to plans that are maintained by individual states.