The commission voted to create a Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau within the agency to help it respond faster to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other emergencies. Public safety communications, EAS, 911 emergency calling rules, disaster management and network security would be handled in the new bureau.
Functions now spread out among seven locations within the agency would now be consolidated into the new bureau.
The new bureau would be created after congressional notification, according to Tony Dale, Office of the FCC’s Managing Director. The new bureau would be the smallest at the commission, with employees mostly culled from other offices.
Dale did not have an exact figure for how many employees would be in the new bureau, but noted that the International Bureau is currently the smallest at the agency — with about 150 employees.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, “We have to consider how we can improve our response,” For example, to incorporate other languages into the EAS system. “I want to achieve a higher standard of emergency preparedness and not get bogged down in bureaucratic distractions that have plagued other agencies in their ability to react.”
Commissioner Michael Copps said, “It’s been almost five years after 9/11 and America is not ready,” in case of another terrorist attack. The new bureau can help coordinate first responders, he said.
He also suggested coordinating communication between hospitals nationwide in light of disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. While some hospitals have made progress in emergency planning, others have not, he said. “Why should every hospital have to travel down this path as if nothing had been done before?” The FCC should be able to help hospitals create such a nationwide communications system and the new bureau will help that effort, Copps said.