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Calistoga's new AM radio station is ready for emergencies

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Calistoga's emergency AM radio station

Calistoga Fire Chief Steve Campbell shows off the station’s new AM “radio-in-a-box.”

The Calistoga Fire Department’s latest acquisition isn’t much to look at, but what it lacks in beauty it more than makes up for in value.

This so-called “radio-in-a-box” is a 10-watt AM radio with a range of 5-10 miles specifically designated as means to provide information to residents in the case of an emergency, such as an earthquake or wildfire. It is the only radio of its kind in Napa County and is licensed by the FCC. And it’s fully operational and ready to go.

Said Fire Chief Steve Campbell, “All anyone has to do is tune into AM station 1670 for the latest information about any type of emergency event. We will link the radio to Nixle alerts to let residents know they should tune in."

The station is accessible on car radios as well as hand-crank or battery-operated transistor radios.

"We know that some people don’t have smart phones or internet access to get Nixle alerts," said Campbell, adding that the new radio will also work in conjunction with Calistoga’s existing emergency sirens. The fire department is working to make personal AM radios available free of charge to those who live in Calistoga later this spring or summer. Signs with the radio station’s number will also be placed around town.

For radio buffs who might think they can listen to firehouse chat, music, or other “talk” radio, Campbell is quick to point out that the equipment is for disaster preparedness only. “We can broadcast prerecorded and live announcements, but there will be no advertising, political statements, or commercial content.”

The radio runs on electricity, battery, or generator power, and it’s fully portable. Campbell says this is important in case something happens to the fire station itself like a gas leak or hazmat situation.

“This radio is very sophisticated; one like it is used at Travis Air Force Base," said Campbell.

The radio’s broadcasts will also complement the city’s state-of-the-art digital fire mapping system. “We’re training all our staff to use the radio,” he said, "so that anyone can operate it when some of us are out fighting fires. Calistoga is leading the valley in early warning systems and disaster preparedness.”

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