FCC Seeks Comments on Proposed Rule Designed to Close 9-1-1’s Vulnerabilities

Windstorm revealed ‘significant vulnerabilities’ in the 9-1-1 network
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Because adoption of Next Generation 9-1-1 systems by emergency management agencies around the country is likely, the U.S. government is seeking comment on approaches to ensure the reliability and resiliency of the emergency communications infrastructure—which will be able to receive and send video—particularly during major disasters.
On April 12, the Federal Communications Commission posted a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Federal Register—Improving 9-1-1 Reliability; Reliability and Continuity of Communications Networks, Including Broadband Technologies—that is based on an FCC inquiry into widespread 9-1-1 service outages during the “Derecho” windstorm that affected large portions of the United States in June 2012.
The Derecho windstorm left more than 700 miles of destruction across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic, cutting power to millions and killing 13, and it also revealed “significant vulnerabilities” in the 9-1-1 network’s current configuration and of public-safety answering point maintenance practices, the FCC says. A PSAP is a call center responsible for answering calls for police, firefighters and emergency medical services.
The proposed rule is needed because the 9-1-1 communications infrastructure vulnerabilities revealed by the windstorm “could have been prevented or mitigated through the implementation of best practices developed by industry and advisory bodies,” the FCC says.
Therefore, the commission requests comment on more than 30 measures listed in the NPRM that are designed to improve the reliability and resiliency of the 9-1-1 networks, and ensure that PSAPs receive timely and actionable notification of service outages, according to the FCC.
The inquiry into the communications failures during, and after, the storm found that multiple 9-1-1 service providers failed to implement best practices related to physical circuit diversity, central office backup power and network monitoring, leading to emergency communications outages affecting millions, the FCC says.
In some cases, PSAPs did not receive timely or adequate notification of these outages, compounding the difficulty of providing emergency assistance until service was restored, FCC says. A broad range of comments from state and local governments, as well as public safety entities themselves, support the FCC’s finding that such failures are unacceptable.
The deadline for comments is May 13, and May 28 for reply comments.
Click here to access the proposed measures listed in the NPRM.