FCC unveils new rules for reporting 911 network outages

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The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted new rules to ensure that 911 centers receive timely notifications when their communications networks are disrupted.

According to the FCC, the rule change standardized the outage reporting performed by the host of federated providers supplying connectivity, such as wireless, wireline and VoIP providers. It said the notifications that emergency call centers will receive during outages will help jurisdictions deliver continuous service and inform the public of alternate ways to call 911.

“The Commission today improved the framework for reporting network outages that potentially affect 911 service and harmonized requirements, including the means, timing, and frequency of providing notification,” the announcement read. “The updated rules will standardize the type of information conveyed in the notifications and ensure that it is clear and actionable, regardless of where in the call processing network an outage occurs.”

The FCC’s new rules also require service providers to maintain current contact information for the call centers they serve.

Brian Fontes, CEO of the nonprofit National Emergency Number Association, praised the rule change in a statement issued Thursday.

“NENA looks forward to working with the FCC, the public safety community, and the telecommunications industry to help implement these rules in a manner usable by [public safety answering points] and ensure that the rules can effectively meet their goals,” he said.

Outages affecting 911 systems are relatively rare, with a major outage affecting the United States perhaps once a year, but with an estimated 600,000 emergency calls nationally each day, even a few minutes of outage could potentially lead to loss of life.

A networking misconfiguration at the technology firm Intrado in 2020 disrupted 911 services in 14 states for more than an hour.

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911, 911 outages, Emergency Management, FCC, reporting
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