Q&A on the News

Q: Concerning Hurricane Irma, and the fact that it knocked out electricity and TV for a lot of people: I have an old-school battery-powered analog TV that I could use. However, the federal government has everything switched over to digital. Why does the federal government, FEMA in particular, not have an emergency analog TV station so they could get out information instead of me being stuck out in the blind?

—Kurt Jocoy, Conyers

A: The switch from analog to digital took place in 2009, and, according to Nielsen, 97.5 percent of U.S. households were prepared for the switch. Neil Derek Grace, a Federal Communications Commission spokesman, told Q&A on the News in an email that the switch to digital was a long-term process and the public was informed of it ahead of time.

“The FCC agrees that communication is vital during emergencies. We worked extensively with consumers for many years to prepare them for the transition from analog to digital television,” Grace said. “In order for old analog televisions to broadcast today’s digital signals, consumers must use a converter box.”

Converter boxes are available for purchase in stores and online and range in price from $15-$50. But there are other options for emergency preparedness situations, Grace wrote.

“Battery-powered digital televisions are widely available in the marketplace, as are battery-powered radios,” he said.

He added that government agencies frequently transmit emergency alerts through television and radio via the Emergency Alert System and to wireless devices via wireless emergency alerts.

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column; Thomas Hartwell contributed. Do you have a question? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).