May 15, 2018 - 12:05 pm
By Lisa M. Fowlkes | Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

As we focus on the ongoing recovery from last year's devastating hurricane season, particularly in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, we must also prepare for this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

If you live in an area at risk for hurricanes, there are steps you can take now to help maintain communications if disaster strikes. For example, most consumers rely on wireless phones at home, so now is the time to assess whether you need an extra battery or car charger for your wireless phone, a portable radio or television, or other equipment to stay connected and informed when the power is out. Don't wait until a storm is fast approaching!

And if you have landline telephone service, make sure you understand what equipment you may need for it to work during an electric power outage. Telephone service offered over broadband connections, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), will not operate during power outages without a battery or other backup power source. If you don't have backup power equipment, ask your service provider where you can purchase it. Traditional telephone service, on the other hand, is typically powered over copper telephone lines and may work during electric power outages—but you'll likely need a "corded" phone (not a cordless phone that relies on electricity) to use it. Not sure what type of telephone service you have at home? Ask your provider.

The FCC is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season as well. We are meeting with communications providers from all sectors to learn about their preparations and how we may be of assistance, and we are conducting exercises with our government partners. Last month, we held a productive workshop with government and consumer stakeholders to discuss their communications-service-related information needs during disasters, and we expect that feedback, along with other input we received in response to last year's hurricane season, to enhance future efforts.

We also continue to encourage participation in our voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), which enables communications providers in affected areas to report on their operational status during disasters. We then analyze and compile the data into daily reports for our government partners, which helps them better prioritize and assist restoration and recovery efforts. We also publish reports online after disasters to inform the public about the status of communications services.

There are additional ways the FCC assists during disasters—for example, by issuing emergency licenses and waivers to help communications providers maintain and restore service. We work closely with FEMA, deploying personnel to fulfill their mission assignments. And as always, our Operations Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year for emergency requests.

While we don't know what challenges this hurricane season may bring, we do know that it's critical for all of us to prepare.