Cincinnati, OH (October 20, 2005)–Harris Corporation’s Broadcast Communications Division (BCD) has played a key role in rebuilding WQRZ-FM, a low-power FM station serving Hancock County, MS that was nearly destroyed by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina.
WQRZ-LP was the country’s first Amateur Radio-based organization granted a community broadcast FM station, hitting the airwaves in January 2003. Since then, the 24/7 station has been the premier source of information to Hancock County residents, providing music as regular programming but also offering communication resources and automatic Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcasts to local listeners in times of emergency.
“We are passing on in-depth information to listeners about where to go for FEMA assistance, the Small Business Administration, medical center and shelter locations, and where to get a hot meal, ice, clothing and bare necessities,” said Sara Allen, an independent contractor assisting with WQRZ operations.
As Hurricane Katrina approached, WQRZ-FM chief engineer Brice Phillips, who operated the station from his home two miles from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, relocated the station’s existing 100-watt FM transmitter, the EAS, a portion of its four-bay antenna, and some studio components to the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to continue broadcasts. When the storm hit on August 29, Phillips’ home was destroyed, but the station’s tower and a 10-foot by 10-foot shed survived.
In the ensuing days, Harris engineers pre-built and shipped a turnkey studio system to the Hancock EOC featuring Harris resale products, including a Mackie VLZPRO mixer, a Denon 951FA CD player, microphones, headphones, wiring and cable. A Harris Quest 1 kW FM transmitter from the Harris factory in Quincy, IL was tuned and tested, crated and shipped. Once the equipment was delivered, Gary Minker, president of Radio Works RF Consulting and a Harris contractor, headed the task of cleaning and converting Phillips’ shed into a transmission facility.
The Harris Quest transmitter has boosted WQRZ’s signal output to 1300 watts–13 times its previous output–thanks to special temporary authority from the FCC that was secured by Allen.