May 10, 2021
By Lisa M. Fowlkes | Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week, when Americans are urged to determine their personal hurricane risk and plan for hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

While disaster planning is a year-round activity for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, we conduct targeted outreach each May to the communications industry to discuss both their hurricane and wildfire preparedness measures. This year we are also reaching out to the public safety community about their anticipated communications needs and challenges during the upcoming season, especially as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic.

As always, should disaster strike, we will monitor for communications outages, support response and recovery efforts, and handle emergency requests 24/7 through the FCC Operations Center.

We are also preparing for longer-term disaster response improvements that will launch next year. The FCC recently adopted a plan for sharing communications outage and infrastructure status information directly with state and federal agencies to improve their situational awareness and help them respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities. We created an application process that will grant agencies access to this information after certifying to requirements for maintaining the confidentiality and security of the data. We are now moving forward with the next steps in the implementation process, from seeking the necessary OMB approval to adjusting our databases, and later will announce when agencies can start the application process. While this is a big step forward, we will continue our current practice of analyzing communications status data during disasters and publishing reports online, which will provide helpful situational awareness to all stakeholders this hurricane season.

Last, Hurricane Preparedness Week is an opportunity to review our tips on how to communicate during an emergency. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to act. In particular, remember that newer telephone service options (including fiber, coaxial cable, and wireless) usually need backup power, such as a battery, to operate during an electric power outage. Your service provider is required to offer you the option of purchasing a back-up battery, as well as provide annual information on this issue, so you should contact your provider with any questions.

As I say every year, let’s prepare for the worst but also hope for the best.