FCC buying emergency notification system

The FCC is buying an emergency notification system to keep in touch with responder agencies and taking other steps to improve its disaster communications capabilities, its chairman said today.

 The Federal Communications Commission is expanding its involvement in maintaining emergency communications during disasters, the agency's chairman announced today.

For example, the commission is buying a computer-based rapid notification system that will enable outreach to public safety officials during major incidents, according to a news release. It also is coordinating its disaster communication improvement efforts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and with the Health and Human Services Department, the release said.

The purchase and increased coordination are two of the several steps outlined by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a 41-page report released today titled “FCC’s Preparedness for a Major Public Emergency.” The report was prepared by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau in response to the chairman’s 30-day readiness review started in June.

“The FCC has an important role to play in ensuring that our nation’s communications infrastructure serves our public safety needs,” Genachowski said. “The Public Safety Bureau’s thorough review concluded that the agency is ready to respond to emergencies, but there is more work to do to maximize the agency’s readiness.”

Other steps taken by the FCC outlined in today's report include:

  • Updates and improvements to the FCC’s continuity-of-operations and pandemic flu plans.
  • Updates and revisions to all emergency standard operating procedures for the FCC’s 24/7 operations center.
  • Improvements to the FCC’s emergency communications Web site, including alert information and situational updates.
  • Establishing a cybersecurity working group that is charged with assessing the FCC’s responsibilities, needs, and assets in the cybersecurity field.
  • Starting a project to use spectrum analysis equipment to enable field operations staff to rapidly determine which public safety communications systems require assistance during emergencies.
  • Establishing the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council, an advisory council.
  • Starting an information technology-based emergency response training on emergency incident management software systems.
  • Working with federal partners to identify improvements to the national emergency alert system.

Meanwhile, FEMA also has responsibilities in these areas, but the agencies do not always coordinate their activities and risk, creating gaps in service, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.  

 

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