ATL. HIGHLANDS – Residents of this borough are expected to have access to one more avenue of communication from the governing body and eventually the police department-- even when power is out or water rises in storms, Councilman Jon Crowley explained to the governing body at last week’s meeting.
In his report, Crowley explained the recently formed Technology and Communications committee is ready to test a new self-powered emergency AM radio channel, a low-tech, low cost use of a radio frequency whereby communications from the borough can be transmitted via both electrically powered and battery operated radios, to homes or vehicles.
The councilman said volunteers are prepared to spend a day in testing whether a radio and antenna, to be installed at borough hall for a day-long test will have a signal strong enough to reach every area of the borough. Once the site is determined to be sufficient to broadcast a signal, Crowley and the borough will then apply to the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, for permission to establish an AM frequency for its exclusive use. When not being used to broadcast emergency information, the frequency can be used to share other useful information such as borough events and services.
The system allows for up to 90 pre-recorded messages to be included for release by the police department as needed. New messages can also be added at any time, he said. The low tech system will offer another ability for the borough to reach all residents and makes it easier for persons who are not computer savvy or do not have access to other electronic means, to get messages through their radios on a specific frequency exclusive to the borough.
Powered either by emergency generator or self-contained battery, the emergency radio is in addition to all other systems in place in the borough, including the borough website at ahnj.com, and SWIFT 9-1-1 , the system that sends telephone messages to residents who sign up for it on the borough website.
“This is just one more tool to offer access to everyone for communications with the borough, for help in emergent situations, or simply to be informed of specific conditions that might arise,” Crowley said. He cited it could include weather conditions and forecasts which would be especially helpful to boaters in the municipal yacht harbor. Crowley added, “I’ve seen communities when power, cell service and wifi systems are knocked out and residents are suddenly cut-off from all helpful information. Now anyone with a car or battery operated radio, can get information about locations for shelter, charging stations, ice and fresh water—the important things we need after an emergency.”
The cost for the system is relatively inexpensive compared to many other more technical communication means and would be less than $5,000 for purchase and installation. Crowley said he has already had assurances of donations for local residents to offset some of that cost.
The Technology and Communications committee was established by Mayor Loretta Gluckstein to make use of Crowley’s television and marketing experience and includes, in addition to himself as council liaison, local residents Warren Kotzas as chair Kerry Kennedy, Sean Altes, Matt Masina and Brian Dougherty.
In addition the emergency radio channel, the committee is also reviewing the borough’s website to determine whether any changes or additions could be made to make it easier for residents to access. The councilman praised both the administrator and the clerk for all the updated news and information that appears on the site, including the recent addition of an established ZOOM number for each committee. Residents simply access the site to get the singular code to attend all municipal ZOOM meetings, including planning board, recreation and shade tree, in addition to the meetings of the Mayor and Council.
The committee is also expected to recommend that the Mayor and Council consider offering “push notifications” for any borough resident who wishes to receive text messages for new agendas and upcoming committee meetings.