FCC Chairman Announces Action to Strengthen 9-1-1 Communications Networks During Major Disasters
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Posted by: Chris Nussman
Based on findings and recommendations of
a comprehensive inquiry into widespread 9-1-1 service failures in the Midwest
and mid-Atlantic regions as a result of 2012 derecho storm;
Final report delivered by the FCC’s
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Federal Communications Commission Chairman
Julius Genachowski today announced plans to launch a rulemaking to strengthen
the reliability and resiliency nationwide of our country’s 9-1-1 communications
networks during major disasters.
Widespread outages and disruptions to 9-1-1 services in the Midwest and
mid-Atlantic regions – impacting more than 3.6 million people – led to an
in-depth FCC inquiry into what went wrong, and what steps should be taken to
better ensure public safety. The
inquiry, conducted by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau,
included in-depth investigation, public comment and analysis culminating in a
report released today entitled "The Impact of the June 2012 Derecho on
Communications and Services: Report and Recommendations.”
Genachowski said, "Americans must be able to reach 9-1-1, especially in times
of natural disasters. Today’s report on the June 2012 derecho finds that
a number of preventable system failures caused major disruptions to
communications providers’ networks connecting to 9-1-1 call
centersduring and shortly after the storm. As a result, 9-1-1 was
partially or completely unavailable to millions of Americans - in some
instances, for several days.
failures are unacceptable and the FCC will do whatever is necessary to ensure
the reliability of 9-1-1.
FCC will soon launch a rulemaking to improve the reliability of existing 9-1-1
networks and prevent failures like those outlined in today’s report.We
will also accelerate the Commission’s Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 agenda.
NG networks harness the power of the Internet to improve the availability and
reliability of 9-1-1 communications.
"Here’s the bottom line: We can’t prevent disasters from happening, but we can
work relentlessly to make sure Americans can connect with emergency responders
when they need to most.”
the 2012 Derecho and Impact on Midwest and Mid-Atlantic Regions
derecho – a fast-moving, destructive, and deadly storm that developed on June
29, 2012 – caused widespread disruptions to communications, especially 9-1-1
services. Shortly after the derecho, Chairman Genachowski directed the FCC’s
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to conduct an inquiry into the
disruptions, including both the causes of the outages and ways to make the
public safer by avoiding future outages.
the report issued today, the Bureau noted that a significant number of 9-1-1
systems and services were partially or completely down for several days after
the derecho – from isolated breakdowns in Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and
Indiana to systemic failures in northern Virginia and West Virginia. In all, seventy-seven 9-1-1 call centers
(known as public safety answering points or "PSAPs”) serving more than 3.6
million people in these six states lost some degree of connectivity, including
vital information on the location of 9-1-1 calls. Seventeen of the 9-1-1 call centers, mostly
in northern Virginia and West Virginia, lost service completely, leaving more
than 2 million residents unable to reach emergency services for varying periods
of Report Findings
hurricanes and superstorms, which are generally well-forecast, derechos are
more like earthquakes, tornados, and man-made events for which there is
little-to-no advance notice and opportunity to prepare. As such, the derecho
provided a snapshot of the reliability and readiness of a portion of the
Nation’s communications infrastructure in the face of unanticipated disasters –
and it revealed considerable flaws in the resiliency planning and
implementation of the primary 9-1-1 network providers in the affected
region. In most cases, the disruptions
would have been avoided if the communications network providers that route
calls to 9-1-1 call centers, had fully implemented industry best practices and
available industry guidance.
of Report Recommendations
Bureau outlined specific suggestions to address the primary causes of the
derecho-related outages and to promote the reliability and resiliency of 9-1-1
communications networks during disasters. Chief among these, the Bureau
recommended that the Commission consider actions in the following areas to ensure
that communications providers:
adequate central office backup power
The Bureau recommended that the Commission consider requiring communications
providers to maintain robust and reliable backup power at their central
offices, supported by appropriate testing, maintenance, and records procedures.
network monitoring systems
The Bureau recommended that the
Commission consider requiring providers to take steps to ensure that
communications providers’ monitoring systems are reliable and resilient, and
avoid cases where a single failure in a monitoring system causes a provider to
lose visibility into a substantial part of its network.
audits of 9-1-1 circuits
The Bureau recommended that the
Commission consider requiring communications providers that route calls to
9-1-1 call centers to regularly audit their 9-1-1 circuits and the links that
transmit location information for 9-1-1 calls.
call centers of problems
The Bureau recommended that the
Commission provide more specific guidance, such as the level of information
that should be included by service providers in their notifications to 9-1-1
Bureau also encouraged the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1, which offers
advantages over today’s 9-1-1 systems that could have significantly lessened
the derecho’s impact on emergency communications.
order to complete today’s report, the Bureau conducted an extensive review of
confidential outage reports, public comments and related documents, as well as
interviews of many service providers and PSAPs, equipment and backup power
vendors, and public safety and community officials.
As the Bureau was conducting its derecho inquiry, Superstorm Sandy
hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
While today’s report addresses the most significant communications
issues that occurred in the wake of the derecho, primarily its devastating
impact on the networks that connect 9-1-1 call centers, some information
gathered during this inquiry also relates to broader network reliability and
resiliency issues raised during Superstorm Sandy. These topics will be addressed in the
Commission’s upcoming field hearings on the challenges to communications
networks during natural disasters and other crises.
Report is available via the below link: