FCC head: Storms teach lessons on emergency communications

Related Press

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Ajit Pai has been to Texas and Florida in current weeks to study what classes hurricanes Harvey and Irma have to supply about tips on how to enhance the nation’s emergency communication techniques throughout pure disasters.

Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Fee, stated his company – working with Congress and state and native officers – can flip these classes into insurance policies that make sure the nation’s communications networks and 911 techniques stay dependable throughout disasters.

With Hurricane Irma barreling throughout Florida, Texas coping with Harvey’s flooding and Maria days from gaining hurricane power, the Senate unanimously handed laws final week that may require cellphones to work on different carriers’ networks throughout emergencies. Now Pai is touring the nation touting the advantages of an web-based mostly New Era 911 system to native authorities officers.

“Going ahead one of many issues we need to do is work out what are the teachings we will study from Harvey and Irma and Maria when it comes to a method to make our public security communication system extra strong,” stated Pai, who was in Wichita on Thursday and Friday to see Sedgwick County’s Subsequent Era 911 system and to talk on the Kansas Broadband Convention.

Certainly one of his takeaways is making certain that there’s extra fiber optic cable within the floor, noting that one of many classes from the catastrophic flooding that Harvey delivered to Houston is that fiber optic cables are impervious to water and have a larger capability to deal with surges in 911 calls, he advised The Related Press.

Hurricane Maria has had a catastrophic impression on Puerto Rico’s communication community, with greater than ninety five % of its wi-fi cell websites out of service, Pai stated. Getting them again up might be troublesome, notably given energy outages throughout the island.

“To me it simply underscores the very fact one of many the reason why we would like our communications networks to be robust and dependable and ubiquitous is that in occasions of hassle – whether or not it’s a hurricane or twister or earthquake or another emergency – we would like to have the ability to join individuals who need assistance with those that are capable of present it. And that’s one thing the FCC has a serious position in,” Pai stated.

The current storms spurred the Senate to behave on laws that had been dormant because the Home handed it in January. Final week, senators unanimously handed the Safe Entry to Networks in Disasters Act, often known as the SANDY Act, which might require that cellphones work on different carriers’ networks throughout an emergency. The invoice, which can go to President Donald Trump for consideration, would make 911 service extra out there throughout disasters.

Its passage was hailed by the Nationwide Affiliation of Broadcasters as a result of it additionally helps native radio and tv stations whose broadcasts are knocked down throughout a catastrophe. It places native broadcasters on the identical degree as water, energy and fuel corporations relating to things like serving to hometown stations entry backup transmitters when roads are blocked and offering gasoline for emergency turbines.

“As Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have demonstrated, hometown radio and TV stations play a lifesaving position as ‘first informers’ throughout occasions of emergencies, and this laws will present native broadcasters with entry to very important assets to remain on the air when catastrophe strikes,” Dennis Wharton, NAB’s government vice chairman of communications, stated in a press release.

Radio and TV broadcasters have been “enormously useful” throughout emergencies and the very fact this provision is within the laws “speaks to the very fact they’ve an necessary position to play,” Pai stated.

Pai has additionally been visiting 911 name facilities throughout the nation touting the advantages of the Subsequent Era 911 system. It’s primarily an web-based mostly system that permits extra pathways for routing 911 calls, in contrast to the previous legacy 911 techniques that are depending on many years-previous community structure.

“Subsequent Era 911, I feel, is finally the place we would like the general public security communication system to finish up and it will be a troublesome transition,” Pai stated. “It’s a huge expenditure and there are various jurisdictions that should improve that infrastructure. However that I feel finally will hold individuals safer, as protected as attainable.”

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