A low power radio station is making some big waves in Hancock County.
WQRZ is a non-profit educational community radio station that is giving callers an unedited voice on its opinion line. That opinion line is drawing in listeners.
"This is WQRZ, 103.5 FM the Voice of Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Diamondhead and the Kiln," station owner and announcer Brice Phillips said.
Phillips took his idea for public radio to the air waves two and a half years ago.
"We do job reports in the mornings for the Mississippi Employment Securities Commission. We do the news, local news and events, local public service announcements related to the local area."
But by far one of the most popular features broadcast from the 100 watt low power station is the opinion line.
"It's kind of like a sound off in the paper, but it's live and uncut. You can really voice your opinion on this station. It's all uncut, unedited. Because we give the power back to the people and allow you to voice your concerns about issues that concern you."
Another popular feature gives local musicians an opportunity to be heard.
"On Monday nights, we have given up the time for strictly local artists. That's all artists. Local musicians, any style of music. I don't care if they play spoons."
The solar powered station is run totally by disabled volunteers. And get this, you won't hear any commercials on the 24 hour broadcast station.
"We rely on listeners to donate money to become a supporting member and that's how we're funded. That and underwriting opportunities as well. We're for folks to underwrite. We're a non-commercial, educational broadcast station. We're not allowed to advertise."
To Phillips, success is all about serving the community where he lives. One of the primary functions of the radio station is to provide emergency warnings of all kinds to the public 24 hours a day.
Hancock County Emergency Management leaders work closely with WQRZ during natural disasters and hazardous emergencies.
by Al Showers
Brice Phillips owns WQRZ Radio. He's also the founder of Hancock County's Amateur Radio Association. Now he's the county's new Public Information Officer.
But what you might not know is he provided the only communications in or out of Hancock County for days right after Katrina struck.
"When all else fails, amateur radio works until other systems get put in place and put online. I didn't have time to think about it. It was time to hook another radio up," Phillips said. "When anybody is left with the last resource, you share it with your friends, you share it with your family, you share it with your community."
Hancock County's Emergency Management Director Brian Adams has nothing but praise for Phillips and his amateur radio equipment.
"It was a tremendous asset for not only the EOC, but for the citizens of Hancock County," Adams said.
Phillips helped people in Hancock County contact family across the nation. He also helped get parts shipped in to get the Bay St. Louis water system back up.
"Another one was AMR calls. We did so much medical, a lot of medical calls. It was just us," Phillips remembered. "I got very little sleep the first week. We were 24/7 running that ham radio."
Just hours after the storm, Phillips had his low power radio station WQRZ running again. He used downed flag poles and anything else he could find to make antennas to mount on top of the EOC building.
"I kept trying to climb up there for like three hours, I think it was, with 45 to 70 mile per hour gusts. It was kind of windy."
Phillips is modest about the job he did, but those who counted on him are full of praise. Phillips is still providing daily updates of recovery information on 103.5 FM.
by Al Showers