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FCC Seeks Input on Changes to Disaster Information System

- Voluntary Process Would Become Mandatory

The FCC has launched a proposed rulemaking intended to ensure communications services remain operational when disasters strike.

At least one change could mean more work for broadcast stations striving to relay critical information during an emergency.

Broadcasters in hurricane-prone regions of the state are particularly familiar with the agency’s voluntary, web-based Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) in which stations can choose to report on outages.

The information gleaned from these reports provide the FCC key situational awareness during communications outages and helps them analyze outage trends, such as a growing trend in disruptions caused by power outages.

The commission activated DIRS for Hurricane Nicholas last week and the proposed rulemaking points to several challenges posed by Hurricane Ida a few weeks before.

While it also references the February winter storms that paralyzed the Texas electrical grid, the FCC did not activate DIRS during that event which was the largest natural disaster in the state’s history.

Some of the questions the draft rulemaking proceeding would ask are whether DIRS reporting should be made mandatory, what kind of burden that mandatory reporting would place on stations in the midst of an emergency, and whether that burden would impede a station’s coverage of the emergency.

Related questions address whether the FCC has the legal authority to mandate such reporting, as well as the penalties that could be imposed for failing to report.

The commission will take up the draft rulemaking proposal at its September 30 open meeting.

Read Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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