One of the most vital pieces of equipment used during severe weather coverage is the Gentner. It allows us to talk the News9 Storm Trackers who are our meteorologists out in the field. Until I began working at News9, I always wondered what exactly the Gentner was. I have included pictures of this mysterious device. There are a couple of things I should point out. 1) It is actually spelled Gentner, but in true Oklahoma fashion we pronounce it, Get-nrr. 2) Gentner has not been used in a very long time. The system is actually called COMREX, but old habits die hard, because the Gentner is an icon of severe weather at News9. "Get Val on the Gentner!" How many times have you heard Gary say that? It's because of this device that one of Oklahoma's most famous quotes came to be.
At first glance, this conferencing device looks like a regular office conference phone. Looking closer you will see that it is much more complicated. We can have up to 12 different lines connected at one time. With the click of the mouse, any caller can be put right on-air to give Gary their report. We never have to touch the actual phone; instead we use software that allows us to connect to the caller. Here's how it works.
1) The device and the computer with the software are located in the Communication Room. This is the room on the back side of the studio. You can usually see in shots of the pod during severe weather coverage.
2) A Storm Tracker calls in to the office, we transfer them to the number designated for the Gentner. This causes one of the lines to begin flashing. All we do is click "answer", then "air", and then label the line with the caller's name. The caller will hear our off-air audio. Typically we have all of our Trackers call in at the start of their chase. The entire time they're driving around, they're hearing what is going over the air. They're always ready at a moment's notice to talk to Gary whenever he says those four infamous words.
3) Once Gary calls for a Tracker, the Audio Director in the control room pods up their mic. In other words, makes the connection between the Gentner and the TV by turning up their audio so that Gary and folks at home can hear them.
4) Due to sketchy cell phone reception in portions of Oklahoma, the calls get dropped frequently. That means someone has to be manning the Gentner every second of severe weather. That person is usually our lovely Weather Department Business Manager, Susan Ghere. She never stops calling our Storm Trackers back and reconnecting them to the Gentner.
Of course this is not the only way we communicate with our meteorologists in the field. We have many different lines of communication that we use; this is just one that puts them on-air. I hope this paints a clear picture. If you have questions, feel free to email me!