- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

24-hour television network that broadcast emergency response information soon after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast is being reborn as a local not-for-profit group to disseminate preparedness tips as hurricane season looms.

The Katrina Information Network (KIN) started broadcasting Sept. 15, two weeks after the storm made landfall. After Hurricane Rita hit on Sept. 24, the channel became the Emergency Response and Information Network (ERIN), before being phased out two months later. Hurricane season starts June 1.

Incorporation papers for the “KIN Foundation” were filed in late April and information is being gathered and digitized for an online start at www.erintv.org and www.kintv.org by the end of the month, said Constance Chatfield-Taylor, the local woman who has spearheaded the effort.

Once the Web site is fully established, TV distribution will follow, said Ms. Chatfield-Taylor, founder and president of Flying Colors Broadcasts Inc., a video production and distribution company in Washington.

“We’re looking for information to digitize and drop in,” Ms. Chatfield-Taylor said. “Ideally, we’re looking for already-produced pieces,” but the network will accept PowerPoint presentations.

As money is raised, it will be used on production tools, editing equipment and a studio.

The original channel — established by a volunteer work force with no funding — carried material from federal agencies, including advice about everything from mold removal to small-business loans. It took about two weeks to establish, but “this will be really, fairly immediate” because the platform will be there and digitizing, organizing and updating content can be done easily, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor said.

ERIN is being resurrected to serve as a health and safety channel and will re-use “evergreen” pieces from last fall, like carbon monoxide poisoning information that does not change, she said. If a storm hits, emergency information can be substituted seamlessly.

Jacqueline M. Bell, public information officer for the Dallas County, Texas, Health and Human Services Department, said the area hosted hurricane evacuees and provided information to ERIN last year. The KIN Foundation has been added to Ms. Bell’s media list and she said she has informed her colleagues nationwide about the network.

Echostar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network installed satellite dishes at more than 80 Katrina shelters that carried KIN and ERIN to thousands of displaced residents, and is again exploring the option of carrying the network, said Francie Bauer, spokeswoman for the Englewood, Colo., company.

Since the original channel went dark in November, Ms. Chatfield-Taylor has briefed government and industry working groups on the project. She briefed the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications System last week.

Billions of dollars in appropriations are being requested for storm-related projects at the federal and state levels, but with hurricane season looming, businesses have been quicker to act than their public-sector counterparts, she said.

“We’re looking into the [government] grant area, but it seems as though the private side is moving a little faster,” Ms. Chatfield-Taylor said.

Michael S. Messinger, director of the Internet office at Voice of America, has been given permission by his employer to join the KIN Foundation board, although his duties there will be separate from his job.

“The biggest problem for people is not having accurate and timely information from a reliable source,” and Ms. Chatfield-Taylor is trying to institutionalize the success of a “phenomenal conceptual idea that she made happen,” he said. “Knowledge is important and people can be prepared better.”

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