Of Hurricanes, Swine Flu and Cyber Security

WASHINGTON: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski released his agency’s readiness report in the event of a large-scale disaster. The “FCC’s Preparedness for a Major Public Emergency” outlines the FCC’s responsibility for maintaining communications during chaos. It mentions swine flu, hurricanes and cyber attacks, but not the wildfires that nearly destroyed the Emergency Alert System serving the Los Angeles area.

The report “concludes that the commission is prepared to respond to communications emergencies and perform its mission,” the FCC said in announcing its release. It also mentioned room for improvement with regard to outreach, training, collaboration, operations, alerts and network analysis.

Interagency coordination could be better. Efforts are being focused on the Gulf Coast in the face of hurricane season. Better coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the works, as well as a pilot program to communicate with senior citizens.

As for emergency alerts, the FCC is upgrading its software and updating its pandemic plan in anticipation of a swine flu outbreak.

“Pandemic preparation places emphasis on social distancing, telework and risk-management activities to reduce the spread of illness,” the FCC said.

Standard procedures for the agency’s 24/7 emergency operations center are being revised. The commission said it’s “procuring an IT-based rapid-notification system that will enable [it] to effectively reach out to the public safety community and FCC emergency responders during major disasters.”

A special cyber security group has been put together to access network threats and how to circumvent them. Additional spectrum analysis gear is also being acquired to speedily determine the state of pubic safety communication systems during emergencies.

A .pdf document of the report is available on the FCC’s Web site here.