Electronic partnership among nation’s first

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 7, 2001

Features Editor

Consider this scenario.

You are sound asleep and suddenly an alarm goes off in your bedroom. You jump up and read the message on the screen of your radio. A tornado has been spotted in your area. You hustle your family to safety.

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Or consider this.

A emergency situation occurs at your child’s elementary school. All of the students have been evacuated. A message on the screen of your radio alerts you to this situation and instructs you where to pick up your children.

Sound far fetched?

Well, this technology is here, now, and it’s available to all Pike Countians.

A totally new concept in communications is now available as the result of a partnership between two of the areas leading firms – Mon-Cre Telephone/Wireless and WTBF Radio Stations.

According to Jerry McGee, general manager of Mon-Cre Telephone, his company secured the rights to utilize the new Community Messenger Radio system throughout Pike County and FM 94.8 WTBF will be the primary transmission point.

WTBF General Manager Jim Roling said he is extremely happy to be in partnership on this venture.

"This new concept will radically change the way people communicate with each other once the radios are in place in homes and businesses," Roling said. "Our company has served this area since 1947 with the latest communications possible. It is only natural that we take a leadership role in this venture."

This venture will definitely be new

because the Community Messenger Radio is brand new on the market. Troy and Pike County have been selected to test market the service.

"The radio has just gotten smarter," Roling said. "The Community Messenger Radio does things we never thought a radio could do."

The CMR allows immediate access to information that might otherwise be unavailable for a considerable period of time.

For example, people could be alerted to a chemical spill along the highway near their home or an inmate, who had escaped from a nearby facility. A death that occurred during the late night could be made known immediately.

A late cancellation of the Home Demonstration Club meeting or a flash food warning could be posted on the CMR. Volunteer firemen could be alerted or a school canceling could be sent to every student’s home.

Roling said he believes the greatest service of all will be the early warning of bad weather and other potential disasters.

"Thanks to the way the system works, people in affected areas can be warned early on and people who are not affected will not be alerted unnecessarily," he said. "There simply has never been a system like this."

And, simply the system works like this.

Those wishing to send messages – schools, city governments, churches, organizations, civic groups, businesses, etc. – pay a small monthly subscription fee to Mon-Cre and have the ability to send an unlimited number of messages to specified geographic areas.

The citizens who have a CMR receive the messages at no cost. Once a person purchases a radio, all messages are received from that time on.

Emergency situations are announced with a warning alarm. Other messages are signaled by a red light.

The CMR operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The operation of the radio does not affect the normal programming one receives from the WTBF station. Because it uses a "silent" FM sub-carrier, dozens of messages can be transmitted at any given moment without interrupting normal listening, Roling said.

The radios are now available at WTBF at a cost of $99 or they may be purchased through Mon-Cre Telephone/Wireless.

Larry Davis, emergency management director for Pike County, will meet with the Pike County Commission Monday to discuss how country residents may purchase the radios. One consideration has been to allow residents to purchase the radios through the utility companies and pay for them on a monthly basis.

However, those wishing to purchase a radio on a cash basis may do so now.

Roling said about 1,200 of the radios are in stock.

Future CMR add-ons include smoke detectors and burglar alarms, making the CMR an even more valuable service.

The idea for the Community Messenger Radio was conceived by DataFM of Ringgold, Ga. The firm has created and manufactured the CMR radios that receive "silent" FM sub-carrier signals. DataFM wrote all the software attendant to it. The unit translates those signals to a written message which the consumer reads on a scrolling screen on the face of the radio.