As hurricane and wildfire seasons approach in much of the U.S., it is time for many to prepare. In the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, however, disaster preparedness is a year-round priority. And one of our focuses is helping our public safety partners communicate during crises, whether hurricanes, wildfires, or other emergencies.
Last year, we launched a program to share communications outage information submitted to us by industry with first responders and other public safety personnel in state, federal, territorial, and Tribal nation agencies. This data can improve officials’ situational awareness during disasters, enhance their ability to respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities, and help save lives. This will be our first full hurricane season with the program in place, and we encourage applicable agencies to apply for access to the information if they have not already done so.
The Commission also recently modernized and streamlined our rules for priority service programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security, which help first responders, national security, and other emergency personnel communicate during disasters, when service may be degraded. Our updated rules will help ensure that these programs support advances in technology, such as video and data communications. We encourage eligible individuals and organizations to enroll in DHS’s priority service programs: Wireless Priority Service (WPS), which provides priority calling when cellular networks are congested; Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS), which provides priority calling for authorized public safety users when landline networks are congested; and Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP), which prioritizes the installation and restoration of critical data and voice communications.
In addition, the Commission has taken many recent actions to make the nation’s emergency alerting systems a stronger tool for public safety officials to warn and protect their communities. For example, we adopted rules to make Emergency Alert System messages on television clearer and easier to understand. We proposed rules to bolster the security of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts. We entered into an unprecedented partnership with state and local governments to test Wireless Emergency Alerts on the local level. And just last month, the Commission proposed rules to improve Wireless Emergency Alerts by making them available in more than a dozen languages, adding increased functionality, and ensuring that participating wireless providers send the alerts in a reliable, accurate, and timely manner. In the meantime, however, we encourage alert originators to review these tips for multilingual alerting.
Last, I suggest that each of us prepare now for communicating during emergencies, especially when the power is out.
I’m wishing all of us an uneventful hurricane and wildfire season, but the FCC will be there to support our public safety partners with whatever comes.