ARCATA, CALIFORNIA, February 1, 2008 – KPBS-FM, an NPR member station serving the San Diego region, was knocked off the air on October 23, 2007 when the Southern California wildfires destroyed power lines that fed its transmitter on Mount St. Miguel. The station, which had provided its listeners with wall-to-wall terrestrial and Internet radio coverage throughout the emergency, scrambled to increase its streaming capacity to accommodate concerned listeners in San Diego and beyond. With assistance from the Integrated Media Association (IMA), a nonprofit organization focused on Internet policy, practices and service for public broadcasting, KPBS contacted StreamGuys, Inc. of Northern California to provide a robust streaming platform to handle the increased website traffic. “I called the station early that morning when I turned on my radio and realized that we were knocked off the air,” said Deanna Mackey, Associate General Manager at KPBS. “We had to act fast because being silent during an emergency was not acceptable. We anticipated more traffic to our website stream since our listeners couldn’t hear us on the radio for evacuation alerts and updates on the fires. We normally handle our stream on our servers, but were concerned about overflow traffic.”
Mackey reached out to industry colleagues at IMA for assistance in bolstering KPBS’ stream capacity. StreamGuys immediately responded to provide additional streaming support to KPBS during the emergency. The StreamGuys team, led by Sales Engineer Andy C. Jones, configured a new stream for KPBS across multiple servers capable of supporting upward of 5,000 listeners, using the existing KPBS stream for source. StreamGuys e-mailed a new stream address to the station, which was quickly placed on the website and accommodating KPBS listeners within minutes.
“StreamGuys provided support to us at a very generous rate,” said Mackey. “When traffic overloaded our streamer capacity, the overflow went through the re-direct that StreamGuys engineers customized for KPBS. The overflow solution was kept in place for a few weeks after the fire, even as the urgency of the situation lessened.”
Mackey noted that a cooperative effort between KPBS and local alternative rock station FM 94.9 (KBZTFM) allowed the station to continue 24-hour broadcast coverage during the fire. FM 94.9 cooperated by allowing the KPBS to continue news broadcasts on their frequency to keep San Diegans informed of fire news and information.
“The significance of radio as a news and information source truly comes into focus during emergency situations like the Southern California wildfires,” said Jonathan Speaker, COO of StreamGuys, Inc. “For KPBS, the importance of having a radio outlet to inform listeners was amplified since its over-the-air English and Spanish-language television stations were also knocked off the air, and it hit close to home as most of our employees had family or friends that were affected. We were pleased to work with Mark Fuerst, Executive Director of the Integrated Media Association, and the KPBS team to increase their streaming capacity while the station worked toward restoring its over-the-air signal.”