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Webcast to help broadcasters enroll in voluntary disaster reporting system

The FCC and NAB are looking for quite a few new volunteers: specifically, broadcasters not yet enrolled in the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) program.

The FCC and NAB will conduct a webcast July 14 at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Saving Time) to explain the program in detail and walk stations through the enrollment process. The voluntary program is designed to let the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Administration know the status of telecommunications providers, including broadcasters, hit by disaster.

Established in 2007 on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., DIRS provides a means for stations to communicate quickly with the government about where they stand in an emergency. Broadcasters play a critical role in keeping the public informed of potentially lifesaving information in an emergency, said Robert Kenny, spokesman for the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. DIRS gives broadcasters a vehicle to communicate with the government about their needs during a disaster to help maintain this important communications link with the public, he said.

“We activated the system during Hurricane Ike, and in its aftermath, DIRS proved to be invaluable,” said Kenny. Using the information collected via the system, the FCC and FEMA were able to assemble a blueprint of where communications still worked in the Galveston and Houston area and where there were gaps.

Using the online status reporting system, broadcasters can report their need for a backup generator, for example, he said. Working with FEMA, the commission can take steps to ensure delivery of a generator to keep a station on air or get a station back up on air, he added.

DIRS is different from the FCC’s mandatory Network Outage Reporting System (NORS), which requires broadcasters and other members of the telecommunications industry to report outages to the commission within 72 hours of an occurrence, in that it’s intended to provide the agency with more timely status information.

Besides helping participants enroll in DIRS, the webcast, scheduled to last 30 minutes, will walk participants through using the system and give them an opportunity to ask the NAB staff and FCC representatives questions about the program. The webcast is open to members and non-members of the NAB.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.