FCC Adopts Order Implementing Katrina Panel Recommendations

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Washington - Jun 8, 2007 - On May 31, the Federal Communications Commission implemented various recommendations of the FCC's Independent panel reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on communications networks. The FCC intends for the programs and policies stemming from the panel's work to improve emergency response capabilities and assist first responders, the communications industry and all levels of government to communicate effectively with one another during emergencies.

The order mandates certain proactive steps for telephone service providers and commercial mobile service radio providers to ensure preparedness for future events. The requirements include installation of emergency power generators and for them to establish basic interoperability methods.

The FCC order also directs FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to develop and implement an awareness program to educate public safety agencies about alternative communications technologies, establish a method to ascertain communication systems status during an emergency, and to ensure that first responders have the proper credentials to accomplish their jobs during an emergency.

One item in the order relates to broadcast efforts. The FCC wants to take steps to revitalize and publicize the current Emergency Alert System. The Katrina Panel recommends that the Commission should take several actions:

  • Educate state and local officials about EAS, its benefits, and how it can be best utilized.
  • Develop a program for educating the public about the EAS and promote community awareness of potential mechanisms for accessing those alerts sent during power outages or broadcast transmission failures.
  • Move expeditiously to complete its proceeding to explore the technical and financial viability of expanding the EAS to other technologies, such as wireless services and the Internet, recognizing that changes to communications networks and equipment take time to implement.
  • Consistent with proposed legislation, work with Congress and other appropriate federal departments and agencies to explore the technical and financial viability of establishing a comprehensive national warning system that complements existing systems and allows local officials to increase the penetration of warnings to the public as well as target, when necessary, alerts to a particular area.
  • Work with the DHS and other appropriate federal agencies on pilot programs that would allow more immediate evaluation and testing of new notification technologies.
  • Work with the Department of Commerce to expand the distribution of certain critical non-weather emergency warnings over National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radios to supplement the EAS.

    The report notes that a current proceeding is underway to implement new technologies into EAS. The entire order can be accessed at this link.

    EB Docket 06-119 and WC Docket 06-63

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