On Monday, September 11th , 2017, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau hosted a public roundtable to discuss best practices for improving situational awareness during 911 outages.  Topics addressed in the roundtable included how to strengthen Public Safety Answering Point 911 service outage notifications and how to best communicate with consumers about alternative methods of accessing emergency services.  There were two panels in the roundtable.  The first panel identified best practices for communicating 911 service outage information among 911 service providers, originating service providers, and public safety answering points (PSAPs).  The second panel identified best practices for communicating 911 outage information to the public.  Tayler Mayer, TDI’s Director of Public Relations, sat on this panel.

The workshop began with introductory remarks by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  Excerpts of his remarks were as follows:  “Today, we pause to mourn the thousands of lives lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  We also commemorate the firefighters, police, emergency medical workers, and others who responded to those attacks with such bravery.  Their heroic sacrifices will never be forgotten.  Here at the FCC, the 16th anniversary of the September 11 attacks reminds us that we must do all that we can to improve emergency communications.  As it happens, September is also National Preparedness Month.  So there ís no better time to recognize that effective communications can be the difference between life and death, and whether emergency personnel are responding to a terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake, flood, or tornado.  We have made significant headway over the last 16 years.  But there ís much more to be done to improve our emergency communications system.  And at the core of that system is 911.  When Americans call 911, they expect their calls to go through.  And they should.  Every call for help should reach emergency responders.  But on March 8, we were reminded that doesn’t  always happen, when one of the nation’s largest wireless providers experienced a nationwide 911 outage.  The FCC is working with stakeholders to learn from past 911 outages whether caused by natural disasters or man-made errors, in order to help prevent similar ones in the future.  We also must ensure that when 911 outages do occur, emergency responders and the public are promptly notified and given the information they need.  … That ís why today’s workshop is so important.  Each of you has been chosen to share your expertise so that we can develop best practices, combine resources, and ultimately enhance our emergency preparedness to protect all Americans.”

Tayler Mayer, representing TDI, gave strong emphasis on the accessibility of messaging alerts, whether they are through social media, e-mail, or smartphones.  He stated that if a deaf or hard of hearing person receives all types of possible alerts — and all of them are inaccessible — the person has received no alerts at all.  Invoking the principles of the Universal Design concept during the panel, Mayer explained that designing messaging alerts with a special focus on accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing ensures that everyone can receive the important messages.  For example, captioning a video for deaf and hard of hearing citizens can be read and understood by those who can hear.

Below is a video excerpt of Mayer’s remarks and follow-up comments at the FCC Roundtable.