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Blog Posts by Rear Admiral (Ret.) David Simpson

Tools for PSAPs

by Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
September 28, 2015 - 01:23 PM

As we come to the end of September, National Preparedness Month, I'd like to highlight two tools that Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – America's 911 operations centers – can use: one to alert their communities, and the other to alert the FCC to local public safety communications issues. These tools – emergency alerts and the FCC's new Public Safety Support Center – can help public safety communicators carry out their lifesaving missions.

Emergency Alerts

As part of National Preparedness Month, educates Americans to make an emergency communications plan, which includes learning how to receive emergency alerts and warnings from local officials. But are local officials ready to fully leverage alerting systems to warn their communities? One emerging best practice is for PSAPs, who field incoming emergency calls, to also have a means of sending out critical information to the public.

Here's an example of how alerting can support incident response: Last year, an anonymous 911 caller reported an active gunman in an elementary school in Seminole County, Florida. Officials placed the school on lockdown as police responded. It turned out that the call was a hoax. Before the hoax was exposed, however, news of the supposed shooter was distributed via social media, and concerned parents converged on the school. Public safety officials did not have a tool to counteract incomplete or inaccurate information on social media. Regardless whether the shooter had proven real, the cordon of armed police combined with the influx of parents complicated the situation, and an even more dangerous incident could have resulted. But imagine, on the other hand, if the police and other emergency managers could have used targeted alerting to inform parents that all was okay – or, in a different scenario, sent them instructions about where they could safely gather?

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Achieving Next Generation 911 Goals

by Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
August 7, 2015 - 11:54 AM

America's 911 operations centers are on the front lines in times of crisis, fielding emergency calls and dispatching assistance to those in need. It is critical that 911 call centers - which are busy saving lives each day - have the support needed to effectively and efficiently navigate the technology transitions underway, particularly the move to IP networks and Next Generation 911. Done right, this should vastly improve emergency response. The Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture (TFOPA), an expert advisory panel to the FCC, is central to this effort.

Since its inaugural meeting in January, the TFOPA - comprised of state and local public safety leaders, directors of public safety answering points (PSAPs), emergency operations managers, operating service providers, and technology innovators - has set its sights on addressing how PSAPs can best integrate NG911 functionality into their operations. At a meeting last week, the TFOPA provided interim reports indicating good progress made by its working groups, focusing on cybersecurity, NG911 architectures, and allocation of resources. We are looking forward to the final reports and a unified set of recommendations from the TFOPA later this year.

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Welcome Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council V Members

by Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
June 15, 2015 - 02:36 PM

Today the FCC announced that the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (or “CSRIC”) has been re-chartered for two more years and also announced the members of the new CSRIC. CSRIC is a federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to the FCC on actions the Commission can take to help ensure the security and reliability of communications systems.

CSRIC members are a diverse group of expert stakeholders from the public and private sectors. John Schanz, Executive Vice President and Chief Network Officer for Comcast Cable, will be the Chair of the CSRIC, and we are very happy that he will be steering this effort. Schanz, one of the nation’s leaders in securing commercial communications networks, brings invaluable expertise to this role at a time when both the challenges and opportunities presented by evolving technologies are greater than ever.

CSRIC V, named so because this is the fifth re-chartering of the council, will hold its first public meeting on June 24.  It will have a busy agenda. We expect to charge these experts with developing recommendations on issues including how to reduce the frequency and impact of misrouted 911 calls, how to improve Next Generation emergency alerting and 911 services, and how to enhance the resiliency and reliability of communications infrastructure, especially as communities depend increasingly on wireless services.  I also expect that members will examine the challenges associated with prioritizing emergency communications during disaster-related infrastructure outages.

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Serving America's Public Safety Telecommunicators

by Rear Admiral (ret.) David Simpson, Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 14, 2015 - 10:35 AM

This week (April 12-18) is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, when the nation recognizes the dedicated men and women who answer Americans’ calls for help at 911 centers across the country.  These call takers and dispatchers provide the first critical contact for those in need of emergency services.  In the midst of crises, they obtain vital information from callers in order to link them rapidly to police, firefighters, and emergency medical responders – and at times even dispense vital, life-saving information themselves. 

To perform this critical mission, the nation’s telecommunicators need a 911 system that keeps pace with technological advances, particularly as communications networks migrate to Next Generation technologies and consumers embrace smartphones and new communications applications.  New technologies also bring opportunities to improve our 911 system, but they do not lessen the nation’s need for skilled telecommunicators.  Even the best technology cannot replace the essential person-to-person connection offered by a 911 call-taker to a person in need or a dispatcher’s knowledge of the local community that is often critical to timely and effective response.

It is why our focus at the FCC must be on helping telecommunicators secure the technology that will best support them in the challenging work they do and help them do their jobs more effectively.  

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Hurricane Season’s Coming: 11 Practical Tips to Help You Stay Connected When Disaster Strikes

May 27, 2014 - 11:08 AM

When an emergency occurs, most of us reach for the phone to check on loved ones and, if needed, call for help. Yet in past disasters, some forms of communications – and the electricity that powers them – have been disrupted for days or even weeks. The FCC is working with providers and communities to make communications more reliable, but there are some actions that only you can take. So with hurricane season on the way, now is a good time to review our tips on communicating during an emergency – 11 practical steps to help you stay connected when disaster strikes.

As a first step, we suggest you take stock of what type of phone service and equipment you have. Many consumers no longer subscribe to “traditional” landline telephone service delivered over copper wires, which generally continues to work during a power outage. (You may need a “corded” phone to use it, however; cordless phones typically require electric power.) Many now subscribe to telephone service delivered over a broadband connection that relies on electricity or battery back-up power to operate. If you fall into this category, and if your electricity is out for days, you will need a plan to keep communicating. We offer some solutions.

Of course if you use a wireless device, you already know the importance of battery power. Our tips remind you to charge your device when a storm is expected and consider keeping an extra battery on hand. We also suggest ways to conserve battery power when needed. You may also want to keep a charging cord in your car.

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Technology Transitions and Public Safety Workshop and Online Forum

by Rear Admiral (Ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
April 16, 2014 - 06:12 PM

Technology transitions, in the telecommunications sector, are already happening, and they will continue to have a profound impact on public safety communications.  As networks transform, the capability for public safety officials to reliably communicate among themselves and with the public must be preserved.  Similarly, the ability for individuals to reach help in an emergency is fundamental and must be maintained.  We are committed to ensuring that the critical functionalities served by the legacy infrastructure are supported after transition to IP-based infrastructure and, where possible, improved.  Public safety, disaster response and homeland security communities must remain reliable and secure under a wide range of stressful conditions – they must be available when we need them.

To that end, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is hosting a workshop on Thursday, April 17, 2014, on the impact of technology transition on public safety.

Representatives from public safety agencies, service providers, technology vendors, and other stakeholders will participate in roundtable discussions to explore the impact of the retirement of switched telecommunications service (PSTN, TDM), the anticipated interdependencies and new failure modalities for IP transport, copper to fiber transition and copper to wireless transition.

The workshop will identify areas of risk associated with the planned IP Transition and determine risk factors for key public safety, emergency response, and national security functions. 

The workshop will be streamed live online for those who cannot attend in-person.  We will also be accepting questions during the workshop via email at or by Twitter using the #TechTransitions hashtag.

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FCC Launches Webpage with Best Practices for Implementing Text-to-911

by Rear Admiral (Ret.) David Simpson, Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
March 7, 2014 - 10:34 AM

Today we launched an interactive webpage with best practices to assist text message providers and 911 call centers with deploying text-to-911.  

The webpage contains materials prepared by Vermont, Texas, and other state 911 call centers (known as public safety answering points or PSAPs) that have already successfully integrated text-to-911, with expertise and insight that can ease the deployment process for others.  For example, the State of Vermont has developed a list of “lessons learned” from its highly successful text-to-911 implementation as well as a series of informational videos for potential text-to-911 users.

The webpage is a tool enabling text providers and PSAPs to contribute and refer to comments, best practices, and informational materials.  It additionally contains documents from public safety organizations NENA and APCO, with Frequently Asked Questions, a checklist of issues that 911 call centers should consider, and technological options available to support text-to-911.

Why is this important?  In today’s world, wireless usage has become increasingly text-based. Yet in most parts of the country, if you send a text message to 911 during an emergency, it won’t be received.  Being able to text during an emergency is essential for the tens of millions of Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. Texting can also provide an alternative means of contacting 911 when a voice call may place someone in danger, such as in an active shooter or domestic abuse situation, or when voice networks are congested. 

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