Help Your Community Go Digital

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

On February 17, all television stations will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and will begin broadcasting completely in digital. This transition will have two major implications for the fire and emergency services. The first is beneficial – it will free up airwaves for public safety use. The second could be problematic. Those who use an analog TV and do not get a digital-to-analog converter box will be left without any television programming. If television is their main source of news, including weather and other emergency watches and warnings, they will be uninformed and at risk. This lack of information could result in more emergency calls and increased workload for departments nationwide.

How can Fire Corps help? Be proactive in your community and spread the word. Hang flyers around town and place reminders on the station’s marquee if you have one. The DTV Transition Coalition lists three ways that people can transition to digital television:

  • Purchase digital-to-analog converter boxes. Prices start at around $40, and one will be needed for each analog television. Coupons to help pay for converter boxes can be requested by visiting www.dtv2009.gov.

  • Subscribe to a cable, satellite, or telecommunications provider. Most companies have packages that include local news stations.

  • Purchase a new television with a built in digital tuner.

The elderly may not understand what it means to switch to digital or may not know how to go about switching. If they have purchased converter boxes, they may need help with installation. Communities that do not speak English may miss the message completely, so have the information translated, if possible.

For more information, visit www.dtvtransition.org. The web site includes a link to view all the information in Spanish.

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