When a disaster occurs, citizens depend upon local broadcasters for access to lifesaving public safety and emergency announcements. The FCC recognizes the important role of local broadcasters in helping federal, state, and local officials provide the general public with advanced notification of and instruction during disasters and emergencies.
The FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau), in partnership with FEMA, helps ensure that local broadcasters are capable of carrying out these public safety responsibilities, by conducting the following activities:
The Bureau reaches out to broadcasters, state broadcast associations, and the National Association of Broadcasters prior to a known threat of an approaching fire, flood, tropical storm, or hurricane to determine the preparedness status of the stations and to exchange important emergency contact information. The Bureau also follows up as appropriate during and after the event has occurred.
In case of a no-notice event, such as a major earthquake or wide spread power outage, the Bureau reaches out to broadcasters in the disaster area as soon as possible after the event has occurred. During major disasters, the Bureau activates its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) to collect information on the operation of key communications systems, such as broadcast facilities, to supplement the outreach efforts.
The Bureau aids broadcasters needing assistance by coordinating their needs with the state emergency operations center, National Coordinating Center of the National Communications System, and with FEMA officials in the Federal Joint Field Office (JFO) that is established at or near the event. If a state determines it cannot provide the requested assistance or refers the request to FEMA, and the Bureau determines that such assistance is essential, the FCC will request that FEMA issue a mission assignment for Logistical Coordination Assistance (discussed in the next section).
Disaster Information Reporting System
DIRS provides a systematic, automated process for communications providers to report the status of their infrastructures during a disaster. Participation in the DIRS process by broadcasters and other communications providers is voluntary. FEMA and FCC emergency response personnel (ESF-2) supporting restoration efforts use DIRS reports to coordinate needed assistance (e.g., fuel, generators, etc.).
- Up-to-date information on communications status during a disaster
- Daily updates to track restoration progress
- Automated, systematic process for repeatability
- Consistent data – same type of information from each company
- Points of contact with subject-matter expertise
Benefits to Broadcasters for Participating in DIRS:
- Designate contact: Allows a broadcaster to identify the appropriate contact for his/her station during emergencies; and, in turn, eliminates lost time when trying to identify and coordinate with the federal contacts who can provide immediate assistance.
- Receive help: Provides an avenue for broadcasters to restore their operations and receive additional help during emergencies, e.g., securing generators, fuel, etc.
- Streamline requests: Reduces the number of requests from various government agencies for status of each station. Other government agencies will rely on the FCC (DIRS) for status of each broadcast station.
- Aid your community: Better ensures that broadcasters will be able to serve their communities, providing them with critical updates and risk communications information from reliable and credible sources during emergencies.
DIRS Collects the Following Information on Broadcast Stations in Disaster Areas:
- Station name (call letters)
- Type of station (TV/AM/FM)
- Station status (up, down)
- Power status (on generator, on battery, etc.)
- Fuel needs
- Location of transmitter
- Other needs
How to Enroll in DIRS:
- Click the "Enroll" button.
- Click "Accept" to enter the secure, protected sign-up site.
- You will need the following information to sign up:
- Reporting Company
- Company ID (for existing company accounts)
- Type of Company (Cable, Wireless, etc)
- Contact Person
- Phone Number, with extension of contact
- Cell Phone Number
- Blackberry Number
- Click "Submit" and record the username and password generated for your account. You can update the username and password once logged in.
Logistical Coordination Assistance for Broadcasters
The FCC and FEMA have developed a logistical coordination assistance procedure to provide assistance when state aid is not available. Under this procedure, FEMA requests that FCC personnel be deployed to the JFO to provide assistance to communications companies, including broadcasters. FCC personnel coordinate actions with and between other private sector communications companies, and local businesses (e.g., home supply companies, fuel fleet carriers, etc.) to determine who can provide the needed assistance. FCC staff remain in the JFO to continue their coordination efforts on behalf of the broadcasters until coordination is complete.
Multi-Lingual Emergency Broadcast Support
Certain areas of the country have very few non-English broadcasters. When disasters occur in these areas and large numbers of broadcast facilities are out of service, non-English speaking citizens may not have access to public alert and warning broadcasts in other languages. The FCC, FEMA, and Department of Defense (DoD) have developed an effective procedure to provide the necessary non-English emergency broadcasts. FEMA has prepared a pre-scripted mission assignment for deployment of DoD mobile, self-sustained AM/FM radio stations with multi-lingual broadcast capability during a disaster to provide English and multi-lingual public alert and warning broadcasts when the local broadcast capability has been severely damaged. When a DoD station is deployed, the FCC is charged with authorizing the frequency and power level, and coordinating the operation of the station with federal, state and local emergency operations officials, local broadcasters, and the state broadcasting association.