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Broadcasters Brainstorm on Emergency Practices

While the FCC and Congress have been looking toward the future of a digital, pan-media emergency communications system, broadcasters will be brainstorming in Oklahoma City next week on how to do the best with the tools they presently have.

The Thursday meeting of some members of the FCC's Media Security and Reliability Council will include satellite presentations from WDSU and WWL from New Orleans, with executives talking about their recent experiences in Katrina, and possibly a presnetation from WLOX Biloxi, Miss.

The committee was formed by then FCC Chairman Michael Powell after 9/11, when a number of New York stations were laid low by the terrorist attack. Its members include broadcast and cable executives, association executives, and others.

Its goal: "To prepare a comprehensive national strategy for securing and sustaining Broadcast and MVPD [cable, satellite, telco, microwave] facilities throughout the United States during terrorist attacks, natural disasters and all other threats or attacks nationwide."

The expected work product: Emergency preparedness plans for all 210 broadcast markets on the best way to get the information out and how to keep the facilities up and running. Broadcasters hve been encouraged to be proactive and to contact their local fire and safety officials to set up a plan.

The FCC already has to sign off on state emergency communications plans, and there are a handful of regional ones as well.

The meeting, the first since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced his push for a comprehensive approach to emergency communications, was scheduled before Katrina and slated for Oklahoma City given its history with handling disasters, both natural (tornados) and manmade (Timothy McVeigh).

The meeting will include local TV station representatives and federal officials as well as committee members.