The Woodstock Planning Board may recommend a policy on emergency communications, an issue that came to light during the recent ice storm that cut power, landline, internet and cellular connections for several days.
An arrangement had previously been made with Radio Woodstock 100.1, WDST-FM, either formally or informally, to announce important information such as which roads were closed and where to get dry ice. “So, in this last ice storm we had, I got my emergency radio out and tuned it to WDST and they were off the air. Silence,” Planning Board Chair Peter Cross said at the March 3 meeting.
Cross suggested WIOF-FM, a low-power station at 104.1, be added to the list. Felicia Kacsik, who runs WIOF, acknowledged it is a low-power station, but noted it has quite a large coverage area because of its location on California Quarry Road. “Our signal goes out to well east of the Taconic Parkway in Northern Dutchess County. If you’re on a high part of Bard College, you can hear us there,” Kacsik said. “You can hear us down at SUNY New Paltz and also out in Boiceville on Route 28 and West Shokan. Some places it’s spotty because of terrain, like maybe in places in Willow.”
Kacsik said the station did relay information during the ice storm. “Bill McKenna left us a message this last ice storm and we did make announcements. I went down to the Community Center a couple of times, and also spoke with Councilman Reggie Earls, and then went back to the station and made some announcements as to when the dry ice came and was being distributed,” Kacsik said. She added the station has a Kohler 14,000 kilowatt standby generator and battery backup units known as universal power supplies (UPS) in the control room.
Planning Board member and former town supervisor John LaValle said there was never a formal arrangement with WDST, but it was something that was just always done. “Maybe if Supervisor McKenna could go to the management of WDST and talk to them again and establish those communications because we’re talking a long time ago, so probably someone forgot about it,” LaValle said.
Planning Board member Judith Kerman suggested a working relationship with both stations would be beneficial, since the ice storm had knocked WDST off the air for a period of time.
“If we had them on both stations, if (McKenna) had two calls to make instead of one, you’d have a little bit of backup,” she said. Kerman also said she suggested a flyer be included with the tax bills that tells people where to get information in an emergency.
WDST wasn’t the only station that was off the air. The local frequency for WAMC Northeast Public Radio, 90.9, was out of commission because of a generator failure and nobody could access it due to conditions, LaValle said. WAMC’s local transmitter is located on Overlook Mountain.
“I think both stations should do, frankly,” LaValle said. “Because I mean, the ice storm was horrendous. We were without power where I am for three and a half days, and there were people longer than that throughout town. It was really bad…Three of my neighbors moved in with us because we have an emergency generator.”