FCC aims to improve disaster communications

On the six-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, the Federal Communications Commission announced the launch of a newly designed and automated Disaster Information Reporting System.

DIRS is an online database that lets communications companies such as wireless, broadcast and cable providers update infrastructure data during a crisis. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, the part of the FCC behind the initiative, said the new design would allow information to be shared between companies and the agency more quickly and efficiently. Participation in DIRS is voluntary.

Access to the DIRS information is limited to authorized users and “unauthorized modification of any information on this system may result in criminal prosecution,” a warning interface that pre-empts the DIRS Web Site reads.

Because of the sensitive nature of the data in DIRS, the filings can be presumed confidential, according to the FCC press release announcing the launch.

“The release of this sensitive information to the public could potentially facilitate terrorist targeting of critical infrastructure and key resources,” the announcement said. “Public availability of these reports, which contain information the filers themselves do not routinely make public, could competitively harm the filers by revealing information about the types and deployment of their equipment and the traffic that flows across their networks.”

The statement also said that the establishment of the online database addressed many of the recommendations made by a panel reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on communications networks.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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