The Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative

In 2022, the FCC adopted mandatory actions to improve the reliability and resiliency of wireless networks during emergencies. The rules will help reduce wireless phone outages for the public and support faster service restoration after hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters.  

For more than five years prior, disaster recovery activities in the wireless industry were supported by the 2016 Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework. This was a voluntary industry agreement to promote resilient communications and situational awareness during disasters through roaming agreements, mutual aid, and other measures.

The new Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative, adopted by the Commission in June 2022, and further clarified in September 2023, is based on the original Framework but was expanded to incorporate lessons learned and better support public safety. These mandatory actions to improve resiliency create and extend requirements for all facilities-based mobile wireless providers and expand the triggers for activation of these requirements during emergencies. 

In general, the Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative requires wireless providers to:  

  1. Provide roaming to one another when a network is down, where technically feasible;  
  2. Establish mutual aid agreements to share physical assets and to consult with one another before and during emergencies; 
  3. Enhance municipal preparedness; 
  4. Increase consumer readiness; and  
  5. Improve public awareness and stakeholder communications regarding restoration times. 

These mandatory actions cover more disasters and emergencies than before, and are triggered: 

  • When the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Support Function (ESF-2) is activated; 
  • When the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) is activated; or 
  • When the Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issues an activation Public Notice upon request of a state, when that state has activated it Emergency Operations, activated mutual aid, or proclaimed a local state of emergency. 

Facilities-based mobile wireless providers will be obligated to test their roaming capabilities under these mandatory agreements and provide reports to the Commission on the timing, duration and effectiveness of their activities performed under the rules when directed to do so by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The Commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought comment on how to make this reporting as useful as possible. The FNPRM is pending before the Commission. 

All applicable wireless providers must comply with the Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative rules by May 1, 2024. 

History of the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework

The Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework of 2016 was a voluntary Framework originally committed to by the following signatories:

  • AT&T Mobility
  • CTIA
  • GCI
  • Southern Linc
  • Sprint (*prior to its merger with T-Mobile)
  • T-Mobile
  • U.S. Cellular
  • Verizon Wireless

Additionally, the Competitive Carriers Association filed a letter supporting the Framework.

On December 20, 2017, CTIA, as part of its commitment to the Framework, released a set of best practices designed to enhance emergency and disaster preparedness and restoration.

For further information, contact: Logan Bennett, Attorney Advisor, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at (202) 418-7790, Logan.Bennett@fcc.gov.

Related Material

Updated:
Monday, April 8, 2024