FCC Approves Sharing of Outage Information with Emergency Response Agencies
Wednesday, March 17, 2021 | Comments

The FCC adopted a framework for sharing communications outage information with state, federal and tribal nation agencies to improve their situational awareness, enhance their ability to respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities, and to help save lives, while safeguarding the confidentiality of the data.

The commission supports the nation's incident preparedness and emergency response efforts by collecting and providing accurate and timely information on the status of communications services and infrastructure through its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) and Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). During disasters, the commission makes this information available to the Department of Homeland Security, which uses it to assess the needs of affected areas and to coordinate emergency response efforts with state and local first responders.

The commission’s experience with recent major outages, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and most recently, severe winter storms, underscores the value of reliable and timely outage information to the rapid restoration of communications and the crucial role that state and other government authorities play in this restoration. In a second report and order. the commission adopted a framework to provide direct, read-only access to NORS and DIRS filings to agencies of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, tribal nations, territories, and federal government that have official duties that make them directly responsible for emergency management and first responder support functions.

The commission’s rules will allow participating agencies to share NORS and DIRS information with first responders and other government officials who play a vital public-safety role during crises and have a need to know this information. Participating agencies will also be allowed to publicly disclose information that is aggregated and anonymized.

To protect sensitive communications status data, participating agencies must preserve the confidentiality of NORS and DIRS filings. The commission adopted an application process that will grant agencies access to this information only after certifying to requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of the data and the security of the databases.

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