Hawaii Has a New Disaster-Hardened Radio Station

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By the author of The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications and The Faithful Prepper

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.

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 the least, this will show 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.

About Aden

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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  • Aden, to your question about AM interference in surrounding vehicles. All I know is that when I drive I listen to AM talk radio & when I pass a semi I get terrible static on my station. Not sure why that is but I always think of the poor driver being literally in what must be a faraday cage & wonder what his/her health must be like & if they are even aware of it (since I am EMF sensitive).

    So I have also always wondered why that interference, maybe others can share.

  • Yes any electric motor or generator on the same electrical system can cause noise on am receivers. The fix is an electrical filter on the radio power leads and a shielded antenna cable. About 40 cents extra cost to the am radio manufacturer.

  • The current issue with AM radio is the amount of noise generated by devices operating under what is known as part 15 rules (FCC) as well as the EV motors and controllers in these vehicles, making AM almost unusable. Back in the mid 90’s I was involved with a group that demonstrated IBOC (In band on channel) digital modulation, not only to offer CD quality audio to the AM listener but also to eliminate the inherent problem of noise on the AM band. See USA Digital late 90’s NAB demo Las Vegas 1998. There is a solution to AM noise. The AM band and service should be preserved but it also must evolve like all communication technologies. Morse code is still with us today primarily used by Hams, it has evolved with the aid of computer software and is used by operators that do not copy Morse code. As a RF engineer, my take is the only real solution to preserving AM and to compete with FM and other digital streaming services is to FINALLY digitize the entire service just as we did with TV going from analog to digital. A far better viewing experience.

  • The federal programs funding this project are not new. I worked for FEMA when the PEP (Primary Entry Point) program started in the late 80s. The timing is interesting but the program has been around a long time.

  • As with the masks and shot, a mandate is NOT law. People need to stop blindly obeying. And just like every other move the govt makes, I suspect ulterior motives….always.
    What better way to add another blinder to the public than take away (yet another) means of communication. Nope, not buying that this is in any way for our good.

    • Completely agree with you.
      I question everything.
      If the Emergency Broadcast System was activated, could we even believe what they’d tell us?

      • So hilarious you asked that…! given that the aforementioned “false missile attack alarm” was the brainfart-child of some slacker working (badly) in the state civil defense ranks.

    • @ Sita: although I agree with you that mandates are NOT orders, and can be refused, (And in many cases SHOULD be refused) Why do you think that a hardened radio station ANYWHERE is a bad thing??? It will allow emergency communication to residents of situations that need preparing for.

      Our gbmt can’t be trusted, but we do need some form of communication for the majority of the population that don’t have ham radios and certifications for using it.
      I think you may have misinterpreted this information.

      • You can listen to a ham radio without a certificate and if an emergency you can broadcast an emergency message.

        • It’s not really that easy unless the ham station is already set up and you know how to use it.

          There have been several articles on this site about communications. I’m not gonna go into detail you can find them and do the reading.

          But the Takeaway would be approach communication with the same seriousness you do about guns and butter.

          Personally, I’d rather be on half rations and know the full Intel of the situation than be on full rations not knowing what may walk out of the woods.

  • I drive a Chevy Volt gas/electric vehicle. I also drive a ’97 Jeep Wrangler and an ’04 Ford F250 turbodiesel. I’m also a ham and a CB’er. The CB is AM. I experience WAY more noise on the CB in the Volt than I do on the radios in the Jeep or the truck. The car’s systems also add noise to the TRANSMIT side of my VHF/UHF ham radios.
    Allotta people don’t know this, but EV’s have TWO electrical systems. It has the HIGH voltage electric system for the car’s drive motors and things like the electric compressor for the A/C. The car also has a LOW voltage system that uses the same 12VDC battery any other car has. The low voltage system is there to power the various computers and electronics in the car, along with things like the lighting and the radio. EV’s have no alternator, as there is no engine. The Volt DOES have an engine, but it only runs when the battery is exhausted, so it’s charging system is set up like an EV. An EV uses the HIGH voltage system to charge the battery in the LOW voltage system. Most of the noise I experience is coming from that charging system. How can I tell this? When I put a large draw on the 12V battery, such as when I use the headlights, I experience a noise level that the CB can’t even squelch out. When the lights are shut off, the noise fades off as the battery regains its charge.

    I don’t think that any of this couldn’t be dealt with by adding filtering for the AM radio. The car companies just don’t want to spend the money. There are also a lot more sources of noise in an EV, and really ANY late model vehicle due to the heavy use of LED lighting and such. By the way; if you’re a ham or CB’er and are experiencing a lot of noise with your BASE operations, and are using LED lighting, try shutting the lighting off. If the noise goes away, you’ve found your villain. LED lighting puts out TONS of RF interference!!! WAY worse than fluorescent lighting!!! If it’s anywhere near your equipment, you’re gonna hear it!

    Oh; and for you CB’ers and hams out there contemplating an EV, I’m finding that my Volt DOES NOT like having high-draw devices such as 100W amplifiers and 50W VHF/UHF ham radios connected to the 12V system. It seems that the charging system isn’t set up to handle much more than the car’s OEM loads. I notice that when transmitting on high power on my 2M/440 rig for any length of time, the radio will start shutting down when I key the mic, as the radio is running the 12V battery down and the radio’s low-voltage shutoff kicks in. This sucks. Adding a larger battery or a second battery doesn’t help either, as a load is a load. If the charging system can’t keep its specified battery charged, it’s not going to keep TWO batteries charged. …Just an FYI…

  • Regarding the Hawaiian radio station, given the strategic location of the islands and their exposure to natural disasters as well as military issues, it makes a lot of sense to me to build a well-prepared broadcast station.

    Regarding AM radio in cars, I absolutely think it should be continued; I had not heard about the possibility of filtering AM radio in cars until just now. Great solution. And there are many local low power AM radio stations in addition to the EBS which can provide disaster related information; the SoCal area has quite a few, though other areas may have less. However I think generally there should be enough to provide useful information, if you don’t want to rely on the Emergency Broadcasting System per se.

  • A Hardened Station just makes sense.
    We are trained Ham Radio Operators. We have participated in emergency drills at the local police department on Ham radio, not AM specifically. I have no idea if the police station had emergency rations or not. However, they did have the names of the local trained Ham/Amateur Radio Operators qualified to be in the building and to operate the radios.

    Some problems I foresee:
    Outfitting for only two people is just a start. You cannot man a station properly with just two people. There should be two to three people on duty at all times: one/two monitoring and keeping records while the other is broadcasting. In an emergency, you get tired out pretty fast, so I would limit the operators to two hours, and at the most, four hours on the radios. This means you need twelve to eight people-for just one station/radio. A Ham friend, who worked a hurricane in Texas, reported that emergency broadcast sites are humming with activity and gleaning information from many locations to pass along to the needed authorities. This Hawaii station may be set for 1500 AM, but you can bet that it will operate on other bands, too, thus the need for more operators.

    AM radio is available if everyone has an old radio, but, will there be electricity to operate the radio? Will the radios be fried if we are hit by an EMP? Even in a hurricane/tornado, such as in Puerto Rico, electricity was down. You need a portable generator. (As reported above.)

    The third weekend in June is Ham Radio Field Day. The purpose is to practice just this – a quick set up of emergency communication equipment with generators, and to contact as many other operators as possible. We are in Minnesota and we rarely get the states to the Southwest, West, South with our usual set-up. Specialized radio set-ups, with more power and elevation for the antennas are needed for the longer reach. Plus, different frequencies for closer states.

    It would be good if all cars are fitted with a hardened emergency radio in case of trouble. It can be set to automatically broadcast a message to go “home” and stay safe and listen to your local 1500 AM for more details.”

    • If you have any interest whatsoever in emergency communication it won’t take you five minutes to find a ham club within an hours drive of your home. They will literally roll out the red carpet to have you there and let you operate to your hearts content on a station that is specifically set up for people like you. Just ask if they will have a GOTA station. (Get on the air)
      More information can be found at the ARRL website as well as a directory of ham clubs.
      This event is also a contest, so you will see some really good operators in action.

      Keep in mind that sitting there talking on the radio and spinning a dial is 10% of what you need to know about emergency communications.
      talk to people about propagation and why the antennas are where they are as well as a different type of antennas, she will see.

      Why some can’t seem to make a contact within 300 miles, but have no trouble talking to Europe and others can’t hear 500 miles away but it’s picking up a station in the next town.

  • Hope all are well. There is more to AM vs. FM,etc, than is commonly known. Study information talked about by Dr. Hans Utter. For example: “The secret history of fm radio”, “Music and psychobiology”, etc..

  • Not to be an alarmist, but the US Military is moving State-side mothballed air & ground equipment to the Phillipines and elsewhere in the South Pacific. Hawaii/Oahu Are apparently “gearing up,” also… Not Surprising because of War Monger #Demoncrats in office in the WDC City State. They’re Just Itching For A War…Anywhere, Anytime…So Are The Military Industrial Complexors!

    A Lot Of Good Info On Here With regard to Ham and Shortwave. Much Appreciated!

  • I see that nobody has thus far mentioned the near 24/7 amount of conservative broadcasting on AM radio. While there are plenty of enemies of that in government and large corporations, I realize that correlation (of the war on AM radio) is not the same as proof of causality (by those same enemies). Nonetheless it seems that war on AM radio would certainly be welcomed by those same enemies whether or not they had any backdoor part on such attacks — especially if their flaming leftist intentions were concealed by technical issues of occasional electrical interference.

    There is certainly no historical shortage of examples of using some cover issue as an excuse to conceal the real motivation to kill something that might otherwise be a much tougher sell if honestly described.


    • All the more reason to have your own receiver with a good antenna, way up in the air stored in a metal trashcan to protect it from an EMP, but you’ve got to have the electricity to power it.

    • Keep in mind that during an emergency or time of war, the government can confiscate the frequencies, and you will not be allowed to broadcast.

      Ham. Radio was totally shut down during World War II.

  • I think the most important idea to take away from this article is to translate the applicable features into your home preps. I don’t think of it as “Hardened,” but it would be wise to have a series of Ham, CB, and GMRS type radios in every home. The GMRS radios are about 30 bucks each, and fill in some pretty important communication needs, especially during an emergency or grid down situation. Likewise, it isn’t that hard to put in a backup generator, a few solar panels, extra batteries, Software Defined Radio for your computers, important tech manuals, and things like that. Heck, for a couple of hundred bucks or so, you can put in a GMRS repeater, and boost the coverage for your area. With the above mentioned gear, you most likely will have the NOAA weather and distress frequencies, plus the scanner features (police, fire, ambulance, etc) & frequencies included in most Ham radios. I can’t solve the AM issues and shortcomings, but I certainly can work on my own communication needs.

  • Here is your question, my response (opinion) is below:
    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?)
    It seems to me that you would have a very, very difficult time being able to receive any incoming AM waves. What popped into my head is, have you ever driven along a road or anywhere where this is ALOT OF ELECTRICAL CURRENTS? You can get no AM radio at all. You have to be out of the area for it to come back into range. The electrical currents inside an EV do not stay inside, as energy always moves around. If you cannot hear AM in a car like that, you have to know it moves outside the bounds of the car. I look at it more like the rays from the sun. They hit everywhere, only with EMR/EMF, those “rays’ can penetrate things unless you have material that blocks it. They float/spread/penetrate/move all around.

  • You mentioned thee are 77 such stations in CONUS. Just where are they and what areas are they designed to cover? Is there a list of these stations somewhere, so we know where they are and can utilize this resource in the event of an emergency?

  • Since I reside in Hawaii (but not currently there) this interests me greatly. However, my view is to somewhat distrust information until I have reason to view it otherwise…however “hardened” the information shared could be propaganda, untrue etc.
    But very interesting to know about AM 1500. Thank you!!

  • “This new station has been built with 60 days’ worth of food and water for two people”
    Every 108 minutes, one of them has to type into a computer, “4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42…”

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