Ohana Media Group operates six stations in the Anchorage market: KMBQ-FM 99.7, KBBO-FM 92.1, KXLW-FM 96.3, KTMB-FM 102.1, KFAT-FM 92.9, and KBYR-AM 700. Eddie Maxwell is the OM for all the stations and the PD for thee stations. Radio Ink spoke to Maxwell the evening after the 7.0 quake hit Friday, November 30.
Radio Ink: Where were you when the quake hit, what was it like?
Eddie Maxwell: I was at my desk, the morning person and I were getting ready to do a Facebook live video. Also her community connection guest came in for an interview, then it hit…about 8:29 a.m. We’ve been through quakes before, but this one was strong and kept shaking…and got stronger. Then the power went out. And we went off the air. I’m hollering down the hall to make sure Brenna, the morning personality on KMBQ-FM/Wasilla, AK, was okay as well as her guests. She corralled her guests outside and I just stayed seated at my desk until it stopped. I’m born and raised in Alaska and that was the worst quake I’ve been in. My dad was here for the 1964 quake. The preliminary magnitude was 7.0 and it was located about 30 miles from us between Anchorage and Wasilla. Wasilla is a bedroom community to Anchorage. This quake lasted a while and was really violent, very strong. My main concern was for Brenna and the guests and to remain calm myself, so I can keep them calm.
Radio Ink: Any of your stations go off the air or sustain any damage?
Eddie Maxwell: All of our Anchorage stations were off the air after it hit and we only have one of our stations that streams currently. Didn’t have significant damage at the stations, fortunately. The generator kicked in at KMBQ, which is in a different location than the studio. So while power was out at the studio, our engineer Tony Kyriss fired up some backup music and I headed to the transmitter to record reports and Brenna stayed back at the studio.
Radio Ink: Tell us about staffing at the stations, news personnel and others?
Eddie Maxwell: We are a smaller company and we don’t have a full-time news department, so it’s up to our air staff to come together in times of emergency and that’s just what they did!
Radio Ink: Did you have a “plan” in place for something like this?
Eddie Maxwell: Our plan is to get to the stations as quickly as possible and get accurate information on air as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter who gets there first, as long as the info is on all stations. In this emergency, most landlines and cell towers were still up and running so we were able to share information, as I am in Wasilla/Palmer, 40 miles north of Anchorage. The main highway was closed for several hours, cutting off access from Wasilla, where I’m at, to Anchorage. Unfortunately, a few of our stations were off a little longer than we thought they would be, but our two PDs in Anchorage, Don Megga and Shelley Ryan, stayed in touch with local law enforcement, utility agencies, TV news departments, etc. to get official information on the air. Our GM, Dan Larson, is also not afraid to get in the trenches with us and help any way he can.
Radio Ink: What did you/others do in the immediate aftermath of the quake?
Eddie Maxwell: Since it was a weekday, and in the morning, most of us were already at the station. Once everything stopped shaking, and we double-checked to make sure each other was okay, we immediately started assessing the situation and started with social media, since at that point, all the stations were off the air.
Radio Ink: Tell us about your coverage, what did that entail?
Eddie Maxwell: Power, roads, and a tsunami warning, which was later canceled, were the most pressing concerns right away. We constantly stayed in touch with the cities and boroughs. Our utility agencies, school districts, boroughs, and TV stations kept current info on their social media, so it was nice to have that info quickly and accurately. We had the Mayor of Wasilla, Bert Cottle, on a few times during the day. We also recorded some elements throughout the day and night. We also covered emergency shelters, if stores/gas stations were open, etc. The morning person on KMBQ stayed throughout the day with me on air as we kept updating listeners. We also did a lot of Facebook live, especially while we were off air.
Radio Ink: What type of coverage is planned for the immediate future?
Eddie Maxwell: Things settled down a little Friday evening, power was restored, mostly. So reminders about shelters, downed power lines, detours for damaged roads, school closures are the main focus through the weekend as well as structural damage reports and where folks can report it. We also encouraged folks to be patient with one another and help each other.
Radio Ink: How do you think your staff performed?
Eddie Maxwell: Our staff was amazing! This is the first emergency we’ve had in quite some time, and I’m proud of our small staff. Everyone pitched in, went the extra mile and stayed throughout the day. I tell ya, you get relatable and real radio in times of emergency. Very proud of Brenna, who has only been in the business for two years. Stellar job! It was great to see our communities band together in a time of crisis.