SEQUIM — While thousands of residents in Clallam County were without power after a windstorm ripped through the area in mid-December, one local radio station continued to broadcast and give live emergency updates.
Volunteers of KSQM 91.5 FM radio station — a full-power, all volunteer, non-commercial educational radio service of Sequim Community Broadcasting based in Sequim — look back on the major power outage Dec. 14 and share how its program kept going as thousands of area residents were out of power from Joyce to Sequim.
As part of the Emergency Alert System, the radio station was able to communicate with the Public Utility District (PUD), the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Port Angeles, Clallam County Sheriff Office and Clallam County Fire District 3 during the power outage.
Jeff Bankston, KSQM program director, said volunteers continued broadcasting during the power outage from the station’s First Federal Tower at the John Wayne Memorial Transmission Facility in the foothills of Blue Mountain.
Generators powered the radio station at the facility while the KSQM office in Sequim did not have power, but volunteers took calls from dozens of listeners and provided updates via cell phone and social media.
“We’re volunteer-run and we were right in the middle of a move and a fund drive; this couldn’t have come at a worse time but it rang like a bell,” Bankston said of KSQM’s operations.
“Emergencies happen when you least expect it.”
Andrew Woodson, a KSQM morning broadcaster, said he was at the First Federal tower broadcasting for about four hours until the next volunteer took over Dec. 14.
Broadcasters continued playing music and would break in KSQM’s program any time they received an update from PUD or emergency responders.
Bankston said one of the essential goals for the radio station is to be able to provide emergency alert updates in these situations.
“There were lots of rumors flying around,” Bankston said. “Our purpose is to provide authoritative, verifiable, accurate information so it calms people down.”
Ed Evans, KSQM news director and veteran news broadcaster, was in Blaine when he heard about the power outage, Bankston said, and drove back into the area to help provide emergency updates to listeners.
“We get the most immediate information so we can pass it on to listeners,” Bankston said. “We’re very prepared and that’s the main core of our mission: to immediately provide information to listeners in the event of an emergency.”
While calls came in all day to the radio station, Bankston said volunteers continued to give live updates until about 10 p.m. when the lights came back on in Sequim.
“Listeners were pleased to be able to hear a hometown radio on air and able to give information,” Bankston said.
“It was like a wake up call. This is why we’re here, to make sure we know what’s happened and what needs to be done. It’s really important under these circumstances.”
Area residents with battery-powered radios and with pre-set radios to KSQM 95.1 FM were able to listen to the station during the power outage.
To learn more about KSQM 91.5 FM, visit ksqm fm.com.