Ohio pubcasters join to provide statewide emergency alerts

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Ohio’s 12 public television stations are taking part in an emergency communications initiative that launched this month.

OEAS Public AlertNet uses datacasting over television broadcast signals to deliver alerts and other important information to broadcasters and emergency officials. The technology was used earlier this month by KVIE in Sacramento for the Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill.

During a disaster, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency will transmit a data stream of messages from Columbus to all the public TV stations and their translators, which will then deliver the information to responders. Broadcast signals are safer than web transmissions, which can fail during emergencies or be hacked.

The emergency signal “is currently being datacast inside all of their station and translator signals, allowing the system to cover virtually all of the state,” David Carwile, project manager for Ohio Educational Television Stations, told Current.

“Fortunately,” he added, “we have not have had any situations in Ohio that required alert activations to this point.”

CPB is supporting the project with a $330,000 grant, Carwile said.