FCC Katrina Panel Issues Proposals
June 20, 2006 at 6:15 AM (PT)
The FCC has issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking based on the recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of HURRICANE KATRINA on Communications Networks. The panel proposed recommendations in four areas:
-Regarding pre-positioning for disasters, the panel recommended that the FCC develop a "Readiness Checklist" for communications companies "that would include developing formal business continuity plans, conducting training exercises, developing suitable plans and procedures, and maintaining pre-positioned supplies and equipment to help in disaster response." The panel also suggested "community education campaigns" to educate the public about didaster preparedness. And it proposed a "a prioritized system of automatically waiving regulatory requirements, or of granting automatic Special Temporary Authority (STA) in certain instances," with a list of specific Commission requirements.
...this report is a shocking indictment of the disaster readiness of our existing communications networks.
-Regarding recovery coordination, the panel supported a plan to issue credentials for repair workers for communications infrastructure, and made several suggestions for state-local-federal coordination plans.
-Regarding first responder communications, the panel recommended having state and local governments keep a cache of communications equipment for emergencies in order to restore public safety communications within hours after a disaster, and suggested a backup and "selective router" system to keep 911 services working.
-Regarding emergency communications to the public, the panel proposed programs to educate the public about EAS and make it available to people with hearing or vision disabilities, and to non-English-speakers, at the same time as others.
Chairman KEVIN MARTIN issued a statement saying that "in its final report, the Independent Panel has presented recommendations for increasing the readiness of the communications industry, improving response and recovery after major disasters, enhancing the operability and interoperability of public safety and 911 communications, and strengthening our emergency alert communications. I am particularly pleased to see the Independent Panel’s recommendations to provide a Readiness Checklist for the communications industry, to inform the public safety community about technologies to improve the operability and interoperability of their communications, to strengthen the resiliency of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and other 911 infrastructure, and to take actions to ensure the public gets timely information in times of emergency."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS charged that "this report is a shocking indictment of the disaster readiness of our existing communications networks. Put simply, it concludes that both our public safety and commercial networks: (1) are not capable of operating without power for more than a day or two, (2) are not designed with sufficient redundancy, and (3) can withstand wind and rain but not flooding. This is true of the wireless and wireline networks that all of us rely upon to call 911 and our families during a crisis. It is also true of the multiple networks that police officers, firefighters, and other first responders rely upon to protect us in cases of emergency.
"Because power outages, multiple sources of disruption, and flooding are all entirely predictable outcomes in NEW ORLEANS and elsewhere, it seems clear that we need to take immediate and serious corrective action..... the KATRINA experience shows us that we as a nation have not met our responsibilities. The only question now is whether – as a new hurricane season is upon us – we will accept our challenge and develop solutions to the problems this report so carefully identifies. History will not and should not forgive us if we fail to do so."