Thirteen/WNET New York to develop emergency info dissemination system

WNET, the top public television station of the New York metropolitan area, has received funding from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) to develop a prototype emergency alert system.

The system, being developed by WNET in conjunction with Rosettex Technology & Ventures Group, under the auspices of the National Technology Alliance (NTA), will make use of broadcasters' digital spectrum for distributing emergency alerts, emergency response information, and command and control information to the public, first responders, and homeland security personnel.

"The crisis of September 11, 2001 brought Thirteen and New York City together as never before,” said William F. Baker, president of WNET. “Ever since that fateful day, Thirteen has been determined to harness its transmission resources to provide vital information that will help save lives in the event of a regional emergency."

The initial award to WNET of more than $500,000 will be used to develop and analyze an urban test bed project utilizing station’s licensed Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) spectrum for dissemination of information to first responders acting in national disaster situations.

Television broadcasters have traditionally provided the broadcast of critical public information during emergencies. WNET said digital transmission technology is clearly suited to the needs of emergency responders and for activities related to homeland security. Using its transmitter location on the Empire State Building, the station will test the new two-way, broadband emergency alert capability.

The ultimate goal, said the station, will be to create a hybrid system in which both the ITFS and normal DTV spectrum bands are used to provide a variety of information and two-way communications to first responders.

For example, the DTV channel could be used to broadcast traditional emergency alerts to the general public as well as to deliver supplemental datacast information about evacuation routes, emergency treatment center locations or similar emergency information to those with data receivers.

At the same time, the ITFS channel could be used to disseminate encrypted data such as building blueprints, procedures for handling dangerous materials and other sensitive information to targeted emergency responders, who in turn will be able to make requests for specific information from the field over the same system.

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