‘Crisis Channel’ Website to Go Online April 12

Emergency information site is a precursor to a new television channel planned to begin broadcasting in September 2011.
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by J.J. Smith

A new website that is dedicated to providing information during disasters is scheduled to go online April 12, 2011, but the website is a precursor to a new television channel that is planned to begin broadcasting in September 2011, says an official working on the project.

The website for “The Crisis Channel” will stream information during a crisis, says Morgan Byrd, the marketing director for FlyingColors Broadcasts, a satellite transmission and communications company. “The website’s and channel’s focus is preparation,” said Byrd, who added, “Because we see the research that the more prepared people are, the better they will handle a situation.”

While The Crisis Channel website is scheduled to begin “a soft launch” on April 12, the channel has to wait until September because “a limited amount of space is allotted per year from DirectTV and Dish Network, and right now it’s full and space won’t become available again until September 2011, Byrd said. “Our main vision is a TV channel,” she added, but FlyingColors wants to get information available, hence the website first, she added.

The Crisis Channel was born from an idea and desire to help during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrine, Byrd said. Constance Chatfield-Taylor, the president of FlyingColors and her business partner Lynn Hanford, saw what was occurring in the shelters following the hurricane and wanted to help. So they were able to take LCD screens into the shelters and stream information starting with “safe lists” listing who is safe and where they are and the Katrine Information Network, a 24-hour TV channel, was born.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still no place to obtain information during and after a disaster, which is a niche The Crisis Channel seeks to fill. The website and the channel will provide information nationwide, but with a local focus, to help communities prepare, respond and recover from a crisis, according to FlyingColors. The website and channel will strives to provide information on loved ones who are being sheltered, or what documents are needed with applying for assistance. Through satellite and cable TV broadcasts, as well as streaming online to mobile devices, The Crisis Channel will provide updated information to U.S. communities when is it needed most.

While The Crisis Channel is not overseen by any government agency, FlyingColors has had “very successful meetings” with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Byrd said. FEMA “is onboard” and willing to provide The Crisis Channel with “an assortment of communications and information,” she said. “The focus right now is on programs on preparedness.”

FEMA is not the only source of content, she added. The Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are going to provide content, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is going to provide information on the upcoming hurricane season, Byrd said. In addition, FlyingColors is “in touch” with corporate sponsors that have a vested interest in insurance and disaster relief, and FlyingColors expects those companies will provide funding for original programming, she said.