July 21, 2004

With increasing concern over possible bioterrorism threats in the United States – including environmental or agricultural terrorism – efforts to be prepared and respond quickly with accurate public information are being enhanced through programs at national, state and local levels.

One such program is the Extension Disaster Preparedness Network, or “EDEN,” which operates through a collaborative, multistate effort supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES).

Kentucky EDEN, which is part of the national network, is administered through a team of specialists from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and Kentucky State University, and provides educational resources for Kentucky residents related to preparedness, mitigation and recovery for both natural and non-natural disasters in the state.

Identified through a national EDEN survey of educators, Kentucky EDEN is emphasizing the critical need among the public for reliable information.

“A recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may provide one more step in meeting that need,” said Tom Priddy, UK meteorologist and EDEN team member.

According to Priddy, DHS and NOAA have joined forces to provide all-hazard alerts and warnings directly through the NOAA All-Hazards Network via weather broadcast receivers.  Under the agreement, DHS now has the authority to develop an alert and warning message that can be delivered directly to NOAA and broadcast to affected areas. The system can reach more than 97 percent of the U.S. on a 24/7 basis through broadcasts in 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan.

Radios and televisions equipped with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) allow listeners to pre-select the alert categories they wish to receive in chosen listening areas.  Broadcast receivers are at emergency operations centers and many public sites and workplaces.

The same message distributed through NOAA also will be distributed over the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Alert System.  This is recognized by the public as the familiar “crawl” of words across the bottom of their television screens and also broadcast by local radio stations.

“In planning for any emergency, information and communication become vital,” said William Nesmith, UK plant pathologist and EDEN team member. “Because terrorists may target certain communication systems, it’s important that people not rely on just a single means of obtaining their information but instead have multiple ways of getting information – one of which is the NOAA system.”

NOAA weather radio receivers can be purchased at many retail stores that feature electronic merchandise, including stand-alone electronic retail outlets, department stores and some drug stores.  Prices can vary from $20 to $200 depending on make and model.  Some radios are available to program specifically for local county information.    

Information about NOAA weather radios is available at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/. Information about EDEN can be found on the web at http://www.agctr.lsu.edu/eden.


Source: Tom Priddy, 859-257-3000, ext. 245