Getting out of town
To improve communication during hurricane evacuations, the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) has established a network of Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) stations that broadcast AM radio messages to motorists about traffic delays or other emergency information. When not in use for storms, government agencies can use the HAR network to notify motorists about special events or other non-commercial reports.
In fall 2008, phase I of the project commissioned eight HAR sites north of the Golden Triangle — the area between Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, near the Louisiana border and the Gulf Coast. Those stations broadcast information to motorists who may have been stuck in traffic for hours. “They need to know where to get fuel, water, medicine, or even where the nearest restroom is located,” says John McDowell, DETCOG’s program director for emergency preparedness/homeland security.
DETCOG chose HAR equipment manufactured by Quixote Transportation Technologies. Each site is integrated with mobile, changeable message signs that alert motorists to tune their radios to 1670 AM for information. DETCOG can broadcast several 90-second messages about weather conditions, estimated travel times, shelter locations or other detailed instructions in a set. The messages can be updated quickly as weather or traffic conditions change. Broadcast messages vary by location because each city’s designated administrator manages its own HAR site, sending messages using standard phone lines.
DETCOG secured federal and state grants for the HAR sites and manages their use, so local cities or counties can use the sites year round. Any community service organization participating in the DETCOG program can supply a non-commercial message for public broadcasting over the HAR, including information during major traffic accidents, safety laws and local events, such as flea markets or festivals.
Frequency of HAR use varies by location, with some agencies using the network daily. DETCOG is planning Phase II of the project, which will include three additional sites.
Project: Highway Advisory Radio network
Jurisdiction: Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG)
Agency: Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security
Vendor: Durham, N.C.-based Quixote Transportation Technologies
Date completed: October 2008