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FCC Announces Voluntary DIRS Exercise in June

Here's your chance to test out the new system

The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will conduct a voluntary exercise of the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) next month, June 10–12.

The FCC typically activates DIRS to collect operational status and restoration information from communications providers during major disasters and subsequent recovery efforts. The web-based system — which recently changed platforms at the end of 2023 — is used by broadcast, wireless, wireline, cable, interconnected VoIP and broadband service providers.

“Communications providers can use DIRS to quickly and efficiently report the operational status of their service and infrastructure to the FCC, as well as to request assistance,” the commission said in a press release. “The exercise will help ensure that communications providers, including broadcast, wireless, satellite, broadband and wireline providers, can access and file reports in the DIRS system, train new employees to become familiar with the DIRS reporting process and update DIRS contact information.”

Earlier this year, the commission voted to mandate expanded participation in DIRS for wireless, cable and internet companies, and is still considering adopting a similar requirement for radio and television broadcasters. However, a proposed mandate enforcing DIRS reporting during emergencies appears unpopular among broadcasters.

The FCC says it believes too many stations — particularly small and medium-sized stations — choose not to voluntarily file DIRS reports, leaving a gap in the commission’s awareness of broadcasters’ status during a disaster which could hinder emergency response efforts.

[Related: “Broadcasters Worry About Mandatory DIRS Reporting“]

The FCC says providers that have not accessed the new DIRS system, or have not participated in DIRS reporting before, are encouraged to sign up and learn how the new system works. Those wanting to participate in this voluntary exercise should email [email protected] and [email protected] by June 3 with the following information:

  1. Name of the provider;
  2. Names of all participants from the provider;
  3. Email and phone numbers of all participants from the provider; and
  4. Specific geographic areas (counties, state) that the provider would like to have included in the disaster area for this exercise (optional).

The exercise will begin with the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau sending a mock activation letter on June 10 to all registered DIRS participants. The activation letter will clearly state that this is only an exercise and not a real DIRS activation. The activation letter will also provide a list of pre-selected counties that form the disaster area for this exercise.

“Providers will be asked to report data on any communications assets (e.g., wireline, wireless, broadband, satellite, and broadcast) it has in the affected area,” according to the press release. “As this is only an exercise, the bureau does not expect to receive actual counts of outages. If a provider does not have any communications assets in the affected counties, it can still participate in the exercise by reporting mock data for the pre-selected counties.”

The bureau asks exercise participants provide their initial data sets by 10 a.m. EST on June 11, with an updated report filed by June 12 at 10 a.m. EST. A deactivation letter will be sent by 3 p.m. EST on June 12 letting all participants know that the exercise has been completed.

As a reminder, on December 4, 2023, the legacy DIRS system was decommissioned in favor of a new platform, accessible here.

The FCC says legacy DIRS users without an existing account in the FCC’s Commission Registration System (CORES), will need to create a CORES account prior to accessing DIRS. New DIRS users will first need to register in CORES, and then create new DIRS account. Detailed information on creating DIRS accounts, as well as using the system, can be found in the user’s guide.

[Related: “FCC Announces New Version of Its Disaster Information Reporting System“]