FCC Report: Agency Can Improve Disaster Response

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is generally ready for emergencies such as cyberattacks and pandemic flu outbreaks, but it can do more to guard against disasters, according to a report released Tuesday.

The FCC, which regulates the telecom and Internet industries, should better coordinate with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during times of emergency, in an effort to allow private telecom workers into disaster areas, said the report, released by the FCC. The agency should also work to establish better relationships with state and local governments, the report recommends.

The FCC will deploy an emergency operations outreach specialist to the Southeast U.S. during hurricane season, and the agency has launched a Cyber Security Working Group to identify its needs for cybersecurity expertise, the FCC said.

"Based on this comprehensive review, I would say that we are ready for emergencies that we can anticipate and that we are reasonably prepared for those which cannot be anticipated," said retired Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. "However, the review did identify things that we can and should do better, and it spurred some innovative thinking about things we haven't done before."

Communications are important in emergencies, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "The FCC's mission during a public emergency is to ensure continuous operations and reconstitution of critical communications systems and services. In short, the FCC has essential work to do to make sure that communications are part of the solution, not the problem."

The report also recommends that the FCC revamp the public safety bureau's Web site to make it more accessible, that the agency provide more training for IT systems used for incident management, and that the agency should establish a virtual private network (VPN) for staff to work remotely during a pandemic flu outbreak.

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