Middle Tennessee State University has provided its expertise and resources to aid the creation of an emergency communications center that the State of Tennessee could use to inform the public and media during a state or local disaster or crisis.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency unveiled the Multi-Agency Joint Information Center, or MAJIC, during a news conference Monday (9/8/2014) to kickoff National Preparedness Month at the Tennessee Department of Military-TEMA headquarters on Sidco Drive in Nashville.
TEMA partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health and MTSU to develop the center, which will provide live, high-definition satellite video uplinks that government agencies and TV stations can use to broadcast information to the public during incidents such as tornadoes, floods and other public health emergencies.
Staff from the MTSU College of Education's Center for Educational Media and the College of Mass Communication's Department of Electronic Media Communication shared technical expertise to properly equip the studio inside the joint information center, which has been two years in the making and was funded primarily through federal grants.
With a $100,000 investment from a variety of university departments, MTSU upgraded its own satellite uplink capabilities from standard definition to high definition earlier this year. The upgrade enhances the university's ability to provide live video for educational training, athletic events and media requests.
As part of its partnership with TEMA, MTSU has agreed to make its HD uplink and staff available to TEMA on a fee-based, on-call basis.
TEMA Director David Purkey and other TEMA officials noted that the partnership could lead to valuable experience for MTSU student interns at TEMA. The equipment inside MAJIC is similar to that already used by MTSU students at the university's Center for Innovation in Media.
"I think one thing we don't do enough of in state government is work with our colleges," Purkey said. "We're seeking opportunities to allow (MTSU) students to get some hands-on experience. We're seeking opportunities to bring some expertise to government."
Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee's adjutant general and an MTSU alumnus, also praised the collaboration. As adjutant general, Haston is responsible for supervision of the Tennessee Department of Military that includes the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee State Guard.
Partnering with MTSU ensures that the state can distribute emergency information efficiently and accurately, he said. Information could be shared with other TEMA offices, public and private television stations and the public at large.
"Seeing the capabilities that they have in their Mass Comm department ... they are a nationwide leader in this," Haston said of MTSU. "Why not reach out and touch those organizations."
MTSU brought its mobile production lab, known as "The Truck," to Monday's event and parked it outside. The vehicle was connected to the televised kickoff news conference to demonstrate how TV stations could bring their own satellite trucks to TEMA headquarters and tap into the live feed or broadcast their own footage.
Andrew Oppmann, MTSU vice president of marketing and communications, said the university's uplink access plus its technical expertise "gives (TEMA) the power to reach a statewide audience on a quick, emergency basis."
Joining Oppmann at Monday's kickoff was Billy Pittard, chair of MTSU's Department of Electronic Media Communication, Dr. Tracey Huddleston, director of the Center for Educational Media, and Jeff Nokes, director of engineering for MTSU Audio Visual Services.