During Earthquake Simulation, Public Radio Stations Test Metadata Messages

October 19, 2016

Great California ShakeOut

Through CPB Grant, PRSS Integrates Broadcast and Digital Platforms

At 10:20 a.m. this Thursday, more than 10 million California residents will take a minute to “drop, cover and hold on” during the annual Great California Shakeout earthquake preparedness drill. Television and radio stations across the state will broadcast instructions as a public service. And this year, through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, six public radio stations covering the most populous areas of the state will simultaneously send test emergency information to mobile devices, using the NextRadio application on Android smartphones, HD radios, Radio Data System displays, and online audio streaming.

Great California ShakeOut drill broadcast

“This project integrates digital platforms with broadcast services, for broadcasters to capitalize on the growing importance of visual communications including photos and text,” said Erika Pulley-Hayes, CPB vice president of Radio. “Public safety, including these kinds of emergency communications, are a very important part of public media’s service to local communities.”

The grant covered hardware and software for six public radio stations — KPBS, San Diego; KCRW, Santa Monica; KPCC, Pasadena; KQED, San Francisco; KCBX, San Luis Obispo; and KXJZ (Capital Public Radio), Sacramento — to receive metadata through MetaPub, a new application programming interface developed for the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), the public radio distribution infrastructure based at NPR. MetaPub enhances national and local public radio broadcasts with real-time digital metadata from public media stations and producers, including NPR, PRI, APM and others.

Each station will receive metadata, text, images and related information to complement broadcasts on mobile and digital platforms and distribute them throughout their communities during the Great California ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill. PRSS, CPB and the stations are using the drill to test the Metapub system for emergency use. PRSS’s emergency alert system could potentially enhance distribution of state, regional, and national messages – such as Amber, Silver and weather alerts.

Public media serves a vital role in transmitting timely, critical information during disasters and other emergencies, including a special reliance on public radio’s communication system when power grids and Internet services are down.

“Our participation in the Great California ShakeOut is another in a long line of initiatives where the PRSS leverages its technology, relationships and world class professional expertise to help develop and improve new methods of delivering emergency broadcast communications,” said Michael Beach, vice president of NPR Distribution. “It’s also another example of how we strive to work collaboratively with our interconnected stations, CPB, and other members of the public radio community.”