This information has been updated for Hurricane Michael, October 9, 2018.
- 10/9/18 - FCC Activates Disaster Information Reporting for Hurricane Michael
- 10/9/18 - Emergency Communications Procedures for Hurricane Michael
- 10/9/18 - FCC Assistance for Hurricane Michael Emergencies Available 24/7
LPFM and other broadcast stations needing to operate at a variance as a result of the hurricane can make the request informally to the FCC by e-mail or if necessary, by telephone. Electronic filings in CDBS should be made if possible. Even if you file in CDBS, the FCC staff can see the filing before the public does and they can "push" an application through the processing system.
Examine your EAS logs
Even though LPFM stations are not required to carry required weekly tests (RWT), they are required to receive and log them. This is a good time to make sure that your EAS radio receivers and your internet connection to IPAWS is properly functioning. This way you are ready to deliver information to your community if/when your area's emergency agencies decide to break in with information.
Operating outside your licensed parameters
§73.1860 allows FM stations to erect an emergency antenna at their licensed site in the even of a loss of the primary antenna. This emergency construction does not require advance permission from the FCC however the FCC must be notified within 24 hours of the construction. REC recommends that you use Dale Bickel's information below unless the Commission or REC instructs otherwise.
The myth about increased power during disasters
In the past, we have seen situations where, during disasters, such as fires or hurricanes, LPFM stations started to operate at a higher power without prior authorization by the FCC. Some may quote "regulations" that state that stations (as well as unlicensed stations) can operate out of tolerance in the event of an emergency. While there is a regulation §2.405 that permits that for some radio services, it specifically excludes broadcasting. Other than the §73.1860 emergency antenna provision already discussed, §73.1250(g) of the rules states that the braodcasting of emergency information shall be confied to the hours, frequencies, powers and modes of operation on the station license. There is an exception for AM stations which permits them to use their daytime facilities at night for the transmission of emergency infromation.
The FCC has, in rare cases, allowed LPFM stations to operate at higher power. We saw that during Hurricane Katrina. If you have a overly-compelling reason to operate more power, you must receive FCC permission first through a STA request. In the Katrina case, it was a situation where virtually all of the full-service broadcast stations (AM and FM) were disabled. One LPFM station was fined in 2018 for increasing power during a distaster without authorization. Again, we stress, no matter how necessary you may think it may be, don't believe the myth. Ask for an STA, they FCC may say yes or no.
Requesting a Special Temporary Authority
All requests should include the technical parameters and contact name and phone number.
Technical parameters should include:
- Latitude and longitude of operation (if moving),
- Radiation center antenna height (if changing),
- Effective radiated power / transmitter power output.
Licensees are reminded that the Commission’s rules address operation during periods of emergency for licensees authorized under each of the rule parts for Broadcast Television Services, Broadcast Radio Services, and Multichannel Video and Cable Services. These service specific rules allow licensees to provide emergency communications during a period of emergency in a manner or configuration not specified in the station authorization or in the rules governing such stations.
For LPFM stations, if you are requesting a different site, please keep in mind that your power may need to be reduced or you may have to use the directional characteristic of your side mounted antenna (such as Nicom BKG-77 or BKG-88) in order to keep your temporary service contour inside of your primary service contour. REC can assist with this.
Anti-Drug Act Certification
All requests for special tempoary authority (STA) must be accompanied by a the following statement:
Neither the applicant nor any party to this application is subject to a denial of federal benefits that includes FCC benefits pursuant to Section 5301 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, 21 U.S.C. § 862.
FCC Contact Information
For radio, STA requests should be filed if possible, in CDBS. To file a an STA by e-mail or to receive an oral STA over the phone during business hours, FM/LPFM stations should contact Dale Bickel at 202 418-2706 email@example.com
Outside of business hours (over the weekend), contact the FCC's Operations Center at 202 418-1122 firstname.lastname@example.org
If your station has to go silent
If your station has to go completely silent (not broadcast at all), you may take your station silent. If your silent period is expected to last at least 10 days, a notification of suspension of operations should be filed with the FCC. This can be done through CDBS. If your station plans to be silent for at least 30 days, then you need to file a request for a silent STA through the CDBS system. By rule of law, any station that is silent for more than 365 consecutive days will result in cancellation of the station license. In extreme stitutions, the FCC may have the authority to extend that. This is something that REC can not give advice on and in those extreme cirumstances, you should consult a qualified broadcast attorney. Once your station has returned to its authorized facility and is operating in compliance with the terms of the station license, then you will need to file a notification of resumption of operations in CDBS. All of these CDBS forms can be found in the "non-form filing" section of CDBS.
Please note that silent STAs are granted for six months. If you need to extend your STA after six months, you need to file the extension in advance (we recommend 3 weeks in advance). Regardless of the expiration date of the STA, the 365-day rule of law overrides the STA expiration date.
Despite the FCC giving an extension to silent STAs past 365 days in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, this does not mean that such a waiver will be available for the current disaster. Even if such a waiver is given, STA extensions must still be filed every 6 months.
Expiring construction permits
If you have a construction permit that is about to expire in the next 30 days and the disaster has directly impacted your ability to complete your construction, you should send a request to toll your construction permit the Office of the Secretary at the FCC with a courtesy copy to Victoria McCauley. Follow the instructions on our Extend CP page. (opens a new window/tab)
Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS)
DIRS is an FCC system that collects information on communications services that are regulated by the FCC and are impacted by the disaster. Reporting to DIRS may give stations the ability to obtain assistance they may need from federal and state agencies and would be a vehicle to communicate the status of your operation. Reporting to DIRS is voluntary. REC encourages all LPFM stations in the affected areas to report in DIRS. Even if your LPFM station is up while others in your area are down, you should report to DIRS as it will describe the utility of LPFM stations in the wake of a major disaster such as a hurricane. DIRS can be accessed at the following URL: (opens a new tab or window)
More information about DIRS for broadcasters can be found at this URL (opens a new tab or window):
Avoid spreading internet hoaxes
During a time of disaster, there are many memes and cross-posts that are made giving "advice" for those who are in impacted areas. LPFM stations with a significant social media presence and who may use volunteers to manage their social media accounts (mainly Facebook and Twitter) should be careful on third party information being shared or re-tweeted. As a broadcaster, you are seen as an authorative source and we understand that at a time like this, there's not much time to thouroughly fact check information. Some of the false disaster-related memes we have been seeing lately include:
- FALSE: Because of the PETS Act, federal law requires all hotels to accept guests with pets even if the hotel has a "no pets" policy or requires a deposit for pets. FACT: The PETS Act relates to how FEMA handles pets in evacuation plans. There is nothing in the codified law that requires hotels to open their doors to pet owners. For those with ADA-defined service animals have full rights in any establishment with a no-pets policy or a pet depost as service animals are not considered "pets". Emotional support animals that do not meet the ADA standard may have rights that vary by state. [ See also: AVMA | Wikipedia | Snopes ]
- FALSE: The mobile app "Zello" and other "walkie talkie" mobile apps will allow those who are in impacted areas to communicate even when the wireless network is down. FACT: While Zello may be helpful before the storm, its abilities are completely lost if the network goes down. Some Android and older iPhones are equipped with FM radio chips. Even though some mobile phones are equipped with FM receiver chips in them, just having a battery powered radio with spare batteries is the best way of getting information during a distaster. For communications around the community, FRS radios can be used. Amateur radio will also play a major role in disaster communications and listeners should be prepared for the next disaster by considering getting licensed. [ See also: Snopes ]
For Hurricane Harvey, FEMA produced a rumor control page with both factual and false information about FEMA's activities during a major disaster.
If your station has done any paid CDBS filings in the past through REC (which had a 4-digit REC order number and we have your CDBS and FRN passwords on-file) and your station needs to file a silent notification, silent STA or resumption of operations and the reason is directly related to the disaster, please contact REC and we will file your silent request at no charge. If you need other STA services or minor change filings or you have not used REC in the past, please contact us at lpfm at recnet dot com for information on our services and rates.
The Federal Communications Commission will not charge any filing fees for non-commercial educational stations including LPFM stations.
We wish you the best and we'll be there if you need us!