On June 20th, the Golden West studios in High River were given short notice to evacuate due to flash flooding. Realizing that the station and website might be the only source of timely information, the Engineers worked non-stop to disassemble, pack, move and reassemble critical equipment in the building of their sister station in Okotoks. Except for a very short period of time during the physical moving of components, all stations remained on-air.
With a number of cell towers and landlines down, the jury-rigged stations were the only source of critical information for many of the local residents of High River and surrounding area. The stations were able to provide up-to-date conditions, warnings, and instructions to the affected area, and worked with Emergency Services to help organize displaced residents.
Collecting and broadcasting information with twice as many employees as the building was designed for required staff working around the clock in shifts. At one point, multiple stations were sharing one control board. At present, staff are splitting their days into multiple shifts to make the sharing of resources more efficient. As well, Golden West studios outside the affected area are taking on as much of the workload as possible, allowing High River staff time focus on serving their community, and to recover from personal loss.
Even after relocating, the challenges continued to increase as water levels began to creep towards the Okotoks studio front door. When it appeared that flooding was imminent, staff were asked to evacuate, but many chose to stay and continue to answer phones and broadcast instant updates. Three employees stayed in the studios the entire night. Had the Okotoks studios been flooded as well, a backup plan was in place to outfit a motor home with the required equipment and broadcast from a nearby hill.
Just recently, some High River staff have gained access to their homes, while others are still displaced and awaiting word on their homes and belongings. The High River studios were inundated, with up to 3 feet of water inside the building. Clean up and assessment of the damage has begun. The station vehicle had been parked at an employee’s home just prior to the flooding and is still underwater at this time.
Throughout the initial emergency, the many days and nights of challenges, and the personal hardships, Golden West is proud of the way staff worked together as a team. Even in the face of overwhelming personal crises, they remained focused on meeting the community’s needs with flood updates every 20 minutes around the clock.