The city Fire Department is taking callers, and not just for emergencies.
Sunday morning marked the test debut of "LAFD TalkRadio," a live, Internet-streamed show designed to give Los Angeles residents -- and other followers of the department -- another way to interact with firefighters.
"The thing is really to empower the public," said spokesman Brian Humphrey, after his first show from the department operations control division four floors below City Hall East. "It's obvious to me that there's interest and a potential need."
Even though "talk radio" is in the program's title, it is available only online, not on an AM or FM radio frequency.
Once the kinks are ironed out, Humphrey envisions a theme-driven program where people can hear from, and talk to, fire officials.
Topics could include department history and disaster preparedness, as well as answers to basic questions, such as why firetrucks are red.
Humphrey also would like to do a show where listeners share memories of their first visit to a fire station.
"Every one of us remembers that magical moment when the doors swung open at the fire station and the giant firefighter strode toward them and picked them up and showed them around," he said.
The half-hour program signals the department's continued effort to reach those it serves, part of an "unfunded mandate to get more in touch" with society, Humphrey said. In 2004, the department launched a blog, lafd.blogspot.com, which updates readers on the latest fire news and provides safety information.
Humphrey also foresees "LAFD TalkRadio" as a resource in times of duress, such as the response and recovery phase of a disaster. The department could rely on its own broadcast to inform people and let them know they're not alone.
Dozens of people from all over North America phoned in during Sunday's show, Humphrey said, including listeners from as far as Moncton, New Brunswick, in Canada. Although a technical glitch prevented him from connecting with callers during the show, he remained optimistic about the program's potential.
"Today's show is simply about testing out the technology," Humphrey said at one point in the broadcast, after a failed attempt to pick up a caller. "Obviously, we've got some technical concerns here."
Humphrey plans to venture into cyberspace again next Sunday at 10 a.m.
During the show, listeners can call (347) 677-0632 -- a long-distance number because the BlogTalkRadio network is based in New Jersey -- to speak to Humphrey. Anyone interested can go online at any time to submit a shout-out, a recorded message with their comments.
For details, visit the "LAFD TalkRadio" test website: test.myphonecompany.com/hostpage.aspxhost_id62.