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National Hurricane Preparedness Week

by: Jamie Barnett, Chief, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau

May 25, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:54:height=100,width=66]]The Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau can trace it’s origin from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  So, for us in the Bureau, National Hurricane Preparedness Week marks an extremely significant time when our work and focus are clearly oriented to the potential damage these storms can have on our Nation’s communication infrastructure.
For those who live in areas that are susceptible to hurricanes, this week should also be a time of preparation.  And preparation means planning for yourself and the safety and security of your family.  Hurricanes that reach the shore in heavily populated areas are often extremely damaging to all forms of communications.  Television and radio stations, home “landline” phones, and cell phones can all be impacted.  And those that are impacted include our emergency responders; police, fire, medical, and our 911 answering centers.
So, what should you do?  Make a plan right now.  From the www.ready.gov website you can find great planning advice.  Here’s one helpful excerpt:
Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations.

Family Emergency Plan

  • Identify an out-of town contact.  It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins, or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging (also knows as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
  • Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local Office of Emergency Management web site.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)

Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”
Please don’t wait to make your plan or review your old plan, do it this week, or do it today.  With a prediction of increased hurricane activity this year it would be foolish not to.

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