For 19 nonstop hours as Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, disc jockey Nio Fernandez broadcast updates in Spanish from the 92.5 Maxima radio studios in St. Petersburg, Florida, fielding updates from those trapped in their homes as wind and rain whipped through the area.
“There was a sense of desperation in people’s voices,” he said of callers to the station. “They needed to know what was happening.”
Fernandez’s efforts made it possible for listeners who had lost power, cell or internet service — as many in the region had — to keep up with the storm’s progress using FM radio chips embedded in their smartphones.
But not iPhone users. Though the phone includes the FM chip, Apple Inc. has chosen not to activate the feature, a move critics say could be putting lives in danger.
The issue has drawn fresh scrutiny following hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico as well as parts of Texas and Florida. On Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called on Apple to activate the chips in the name of public safety.
“I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” Pai said in a statement. “That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first.”
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Daniel Flatley