On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s workshop to stress the importance of 911. The workshop’s focus was on improving situational awareness during 911 outages, but the Chairman stressed that despite new technology and recent examples, 911 was still the “core” of our emergency communications system.
On March 8, AT&T experienced a nationwide 911 outage. Pai said that after the event, he instructed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to investigate its cause and impact, including alternative ways that the public could get help.
One such way was social media, which Pai said had been highly publicized due to the recent events of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Though while there have been a number of success stories with social media, “the experience with Hurricane Harvey also underscores the importance of not confusing social media as a substitute for calling 911,” Pai explained.
Pai cited the fact that some public safety entities warned that social media was not the best means of communicating emergency rescue requests. “All of this points to the need for best practices about how to communicate effectively both about 911 outages and during 911 outages,” Pai said.
Pai called upon the attendees of the workshop to help address these issues. “Each of you has been chosen to share you expertise so that we can develop best practices, combine resources, and ultimately enhance our emergency preparedness to protect all Americans.”