Hawaii Has a New Disaster-Hardened Radio Station

By Aden Tate

Business as usual or a sign of the times? FEMA has recently built a new “hardened” broadcast station in Hawaii. What’s a hardened radio station, you ask?

A radio facility that is designed to be able to pump out information despite come what may. This particular station is designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. That’s according to FEMA National Public Warning System manager Manny Centeno.

Drone photography of the facility shows solar panels, what appears to be a propane tank, an emergency generator, and the shielded studio.

The new hardened radio station facility

When a false missile attack alarm occurred in Hawaii in 2018, it shed light on a lack of preparedness on the islands. Steps have been taken ever since to improve disaster readiness.

As of May 2023, Hawaii finished building this newest addition to the National Public Warning System and Hawaii’s first Primary Entry Point (PEP) Emergency Broadcast Facility. The purpose of the station is to alert Americans in the Pacific of any necessary information in the midst of a disaster. The site also acts as a relay for FEMA to reach American Samoa and Guam with news as well. This new station has been built with 60 days’ worth of food and water for two people and is one of 77 similar facilities throughout the United States (which, together, are capable of reaching 90% of the American population in the event of a national disaster).

Aside from food and water, the Hawaiian hardened radio station has also been equipped with emergency power generation and “expanded broadcast capacity” to ensure that it is able to stay on the air as long as possible.

FEMA actually doesn’t own the grounds of the new station either.

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That belongs to Duane Kurisu, who has volunteered to house the site on his property on Oahu so that the people of Hawaii have the means to access the information they need in the midst of an emergency.

Interestingly, the station is set to broadcast on AM 1500, which is common for emergency broadcasts but brings to mind a current radio debate.

The AM debate

For those who have been staying abreast of current events of late, the very notion of AM radio has been something of a controversial topic. This comes about after numerous electronic vehicle manufacturers have stated that they will no longer produce vehicles with AM radio included. The stated reasons for this are that A) data collected from EVs showed that less than 5% of EV users listen to AM radio, and B) EV engines can create interference which makes it very difficult to listen to AM radio stations.

(Author’s note: this is something I’m unclear on and am having a hard time finding info on, so I would appreciate your input below. Do EVs create AM interference solely within the car, or would they create interference for everybody within the near vicinity? In other words, if I live in the middle of a city and everybody has EVs except for me and my diesel truck, does that then make it so I can’t listen to AM?)

The backlash against this move has largely centered around AM radio being one of the chief means by which the National Public Warning System is able to get information out to the general public, particularly in an environment where cell phones are no longer functioning. There’s actually a bill in the works titled the “AM for Every Vehicle Act” that’s looking at mandating AM radios be installed in vehicles within the US. I don’t like the idea of people being mandated to make products in that manner, but at least this shows you just how serious people are about this discussion.

While a preparedness-minded individual likely has some means of receiving AM radio outside of their car, the average American likely does not (how many people do you know with standalone radios?). This would make it so that if this trend continues, as older American vehicles break down and are sent to the landfill, the newer vehicles would gradually “phase out” AM radio from American soil.

When combined with the current push for nothing other than electric vehicles in the United States and Europe, this is something that is within the realm of possibility.

The hardened radio station is an act of preparedness.

To return to the hardened radio station, however, I don’t see every act of military or otherwise government-related act of preparedness as a need for running around screaming and would much rather have these facilities in place ahead of time rather than after. So this move to me is really just something that I’m looking at and going, “Huh. Well, that’s good, I guess.”

Maybe it would be good if there were more such facilities across the country.

But what do you think? Is this cause for alarm or just standard procedure? What do you think about AM radio and information gathering in the midst of a nationwide emergency? Are there other venues you prefer? Would you like to see this spread? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comment section below.

Kudos to SWLing.com, a fascinating site devoted to shortwave radio listening (you should follow them), for being the first to report on this that we know of.

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper,  An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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