Sunday 27 November 2016

FM Radio Switch-Off Problems for Swiss Emergency Information

DAB transition forces the government to find new solutions
Without emergency alerts via FM, the whole population will not be reached by radio. Now the federal government is looking for new ways to inform in an emergency, such as earthquakes, landslides and floods. According to public radio SRG, digital radio DAB+ is expected to gradually replace FM from 2020. This threatens to become a catastrophic gap for information authorities. Today’s alarm system cannot be used any longer. It is clearly defined in the event of a disaster: When the sirens are heard radio should be turned on. This usually via the major radio channel. If this should fail, there is emergency transmitters.

The emergency transmitter network can be operated even after 2027, says Münger, Head of Communications at the Federal Office for Civil Protection (BABS). This is not satisfying as most end users will then already have changed from FM to DAB+ and thus a decreasing number of people can be reached via FM radio. An alternative solution is emergency information via digital radio DAB+. But this is a political decision and involves significant costs, says Münger.

The alarms via the existing 5,000 stationary and 2,800 mobile sirens will continue. Such siren alarms have proved their worth, says Münger. As recently as last year, the sirens updated to the latest technical standards with a uniform control system via radio. This means a safe operation of the sirens for the next generation.

It was originally also thought to emergency alerts could be sent via SMS. But it turns out is not possible in the case of major events, to spread a large number of messages in a short time. At large events like New Year wishes, a text message reaches the receiver sometimes with hours of delay.

For the Internet has Switzerland now has launched an alert app as a pilot project in order to push alerts on the internet. The app has so far been downloaded about 50,000 times. The downside of the app is that it must be downloaded and installed by each user and to push the alert must be enabled. Therefore it must be ensured that alert apps used for weather, traffic or news, can reach most of the population. (SDA)

The issue of emergency preparedness has also been a significant element in the debate on FM and DAB in Norway and Sweden. The Swedish government's decision 2015 not to proceed with a transition to DAB+ is justified by excessive ambiguities, particularly with regard to radio's role in the Swedish emergency management. The government's view was that the current radio solution, FM network supplemented by Internet, nor is vitiated by such defects that a move was justified. Ahead of a planned closure of the FM for the nationwide channels in 2017 an intense debate on the worsening crisis of the emergency information gap is presently underway in Norway. DAB+ is to date untested as an exclusive platform for terrestrial radio while also having less range than FM.

Especially a large proportion of motorists will be difficult to reach with emergency information when the FM network is closed in Norway. Particularly for the foreign motorized visitors including from neighboring countries Finland and Sweden. Authorities in Switzerland have not yet paid attention to this problem with foreign visitors by cars. The timetable to close the Swiss FM network is set for 2020.

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