WASHINGTON, DC -- Maranatha Broadcasting Company's WFMZ-TV (Allentown, Pa.) President and General Manager Barry Fisher testified today before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management at a hearing on "FEMA Reauthorization: Ensuring the Nation is Prepared."
Below is a transcript of his testimony as prepared for delivery.
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Good morning Chairman Barletta, Ranking Member Carson and members of the subcommittee. My name is Barry Fisher and I am the president and general manager of WFMZ-TV, an independent television station in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We are a community-oriented local broadcaster with 83 live newscasts each week and a 24-hour digital weather channel. I am here today representing the National Association of Broadcasters.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about emergency communications and the valuable, often life-saving services that local broadcasters provide during emergencies.
When the power goes out, when phone service is limited and the Internet goes down, broadcasters are always there and are always on the air.
Broadcasters are "first informers." We are the go-to source for vital information before, during, and after an emergency.
I'd like to show you a brief video clip that underscores the critical service broadcasters provide.
During Hurricane Sandy, WFMZ provided around the clock coverage to our viewers, to keep them informed. We knew there would be wide spread power and communications outages, so we began alerting the public about what areas would be hit and what essentials were needed to stay safe. We also encouraged our viewers to buy battery operated televisions in case they lost power. In one of the counties in our viewing area, an estimated 67 percent of the county was without power, but we stayed on the air keeping viewers abreast of what was happening. We worked closely with local radio stations to simulcast our newscast to reach people without battery-operated televisions. This type of cooperation among broadcasters is common during times of emergency.
I am proud of our station's performance during Hurricane Sandy, as well as all broadcasters in the storm zone.
We are also proud to be the backbone of the Emergency Alert System.
The EAS is a national public warning network that connects public safety authorities to the public through over-the-air broadcast stations with the simple push of a button. We consider the delivery of timely alerts and warnings to be the most important use of our spectrum and an indispensable service to the public.
The EAS is also used for AMBER Alert system, which was created by broadcasters and local law enforcement in 1996. To date, AMBER Alerts have aided in the successful recovery of 656 abducted children across the United States.
Broadcasters have made investments to their internet and social media sites, some of the most viewed content on the web.
When the public receives an email, a text alert or a social media message from a local broadcaster, they know it's accurate and from an authoritative source. In fact, even Wireless Emergency Alerts received on your mobile phone direct you to your local media for more information.
In November 2011, FEMA and the FCC conducted the first-ever nationwide EAS test. Broadcasters across the U.S. participated.
The test served its purpose - to diagnose problems in the system which are now being addressed. This is precisely why NAB fully supports testing the EAS on a regular basis.
The continued success of the EAS depends on a few important factors.
First, state and local safety officials should receive ongoing training to properly use and protect the integrity of the EAS. Broadcasters stand ready to deliver the message, but first we need someone to deliver it to us. We strongly urge the committee to incorporate training into any legislation considered.
Second, we ask the Committee to create a National Advisory Committee on Emergency Alerting. This committee would bring all stakeholders together, to ensure continual improvements to the system.
I am grateful for this opportunity to share my views on the indispensable role broadcasters play in communicating emergency information to the public. We look forward to working with you toward our shared goal of keeping the American people safe through timely alerts and warnings. Thank you.
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