Sandy prompts FCC to activate disaster information reporting system

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) activated the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) last week in response to Hurricane Sandy.

DIRS is a voluntary, web-based system that communications providers — including broadcast, cable, wireless, wireline and voice-over-Internet protocol providers — can use to report their infrastructure status and situational awareness information during times of emergencies.

The FCC requested that communications providers expeditiously submit and update information through DIRS regarding the status of their communications equipment, restoration efforts, power (i.e., whether they are using commercial power, generator or battery) and access to fuel, if they provide service to any areas listed below.

Based on this information, the FCC knows where the problems are and which companies are responsible for addressing them. However, the commission has not made that information public.

The New York Times reported that in its manual for use of the disaster system, the commission said the information “is sensitive for national security and/or commercial reasons” and, therefore, will be treated as “presumptively confidential.”

Service providers can make reports by accessing DIRS or under e-filing on the Commission’s main webpage or the PSHSB webpage.

Providers that have not previously done so will be asked to first provide contact information and obtain a User ID when they access DIRS. Communications providers are reminded that NORS obligations are suspended for the duration of the DIRS activation in the counties where DIRS has been activated.

Reports were requested beginning last week and expected every day by 10:00 a.m. until the DIRS is deactivated.

The FCC listed counties in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.