FCC Releases Report on 9-1-1 Outage with NG 9-1-1 Transition Recommendations (10/21/14)
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | Comments

The FCC released a report following a widespread 9-1-1 outage in Washington state in April, caused by a vendor’s software coding error, that prevented 9-1-1 calls from being processed and directed to the appropriate public-safety answering point (PSAP).

The commission said the outage was troubling because it is not an isolated incident or an act of nature. The causes of the outage highlight vulnerabilities of 9-1-1 networks as they transition from current emergency systems to IP-supported technologies, the report said.

The report encouraged all 9-1-1 system participants to take the following steps to preserve the reliability and integrity of the 9-1-1 system during the transition to next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) and beyond.

• Develop and Implement NG 9-1-1 Transition Best Practices: The FCC’s inquiry shed light on a number of measures that providers can take to improve service reliability during this transition. The report recommends that the commission charge the Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) with developing and refining a comprehensive set of best practices in this area.

• Further FCC Proceedings on 9-1-1 Reliability: The commission should conduct further proceedings as necessary to ensure that reliability of 9-1-1 service in the U.S. continues to promote the safety of life and property by maintaining pace with evolving technologies and challenges, and that both incumbent 9-1-1 service providers and new entrants remain fully accountable to the public they serve.

• Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Information Sharing: The transition to NG 9-1-1 creates a need for closer coordination of evolving practices and expectations regarding 9-1-1 among all governmental and commercial entities, as well as a broad-based understanding among all stakeholders regarding the status of deployment of NG 9-1-1 from all stakeholders involved.

• Situational Awareness: All parties involved in 9-1-1 end-to-end call completion, as well as appropriate public-safety authorities, need to take steps to improve situational awareness during an outage.

• Exercise of Enforcement Powers: The FCC should use enforcement action as necessary to safeguard reliable end-to-end 9-1-1 service. 9-1-1 service providers must ensure compliance with the commission’s 9-1-1 requirements, including outage reporting requirements, particularly as they transition to NG 9-1-1 networks.

• Contractual Relationship Monitoring: Primary 9-1-1 service providers should monitor their contractual relationships to establish clear operational roles and responsibilities for situational awareness and information sharing, and exercise operational oversight with respect to their subcontractors and implement the appropriate mechanisms to retain meaningful controls.

“The April 2014 multistate outage was far more than a simple software error on an otherwise uneventful spring evening in Englewood, Colorado,” the FCC’s report said. “It was a vivid example of the vulnerabilities that IP-supported architectures may present, without sufficient network safeguards and clear lines of accountability. The issues raised in the outage go to the heart of providing reliable 9-1-1 service.

“Regardless of what party implements a particular component of 9-1-1 service, there must be network reliability and clear accountability from call placement to call completion. As the nation transitions to new methods of communications, we need to take care to ensure that our inherent trust in the 9-1-1 system does not get lost in that transition.”

The full report is here.

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