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FCC Provides Tips For Emergency Communications In Face Of Irene

The Federal Communications Commission Saturday provided tips to the public on emergency communications during Hurricane Irene, including limiting non-emergency calls and staying connected via TV and radio.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission had deployed an emergency response team and was in contact with wireless and wireline carriers. At the FCC's request , carriers have activated their Disaster Information Reporting System to monitor outages.
Communications providers needing special temporary authorizations or advice can contact the FCC's 24/7 operations center at 202-418-1122 or e-mail
The following are the FCC's tips for communicating in an emergency. While the list if focused on cell phones, the final tips is one other government officials have been offering up for days: "Tune-in to broadcast and radio news for important news alerts. "
Many TV stations in affected markets scrapped their regular programming Saturday to broadcast wall-to-wall storm coverage.
"1. Limit non-emergency phone calls. This will minimize network congestion, free up "space" on the network for emergency communications and conserve battery power if you are using a wireless phone;
2. Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to use it only to convey vital information to emergency personneland/or family;
3. Try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messageswill go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more "space" for emergency communications on the telephonenetwork;
4. If possible try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if youare unsuccessful in getting through on your wireless phone, try a messaging capability like text messaging or email. Alternatively, try a landline phone if one is available. This will help spread the communications demand over multiple networksand should reduce overall congestion;
5. Wait 10 seconds before redialing a call. On many wireless handsets, to re-dial a number, you simply push "send" after you'veended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not haveenough time to clear before you've resent the same data. This contributes to a clogged network;
6. Have charged batteries and car-charger adapters available for backup power for your wireless phone;
7. Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers in your phone.
8. If in your vehicle, try to place calls while your vehicle is stationary.
9. Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and make certain all familymembers know who to contact if they become separated;
10. If you have Call Forwarding on your home number, forward your home number to your wireless number in the event of anevacuation. That way you will get incoming calls from your landline phone;
11. After the storm has passed, if you lose power in your home, try using your car to charge cell phones or listen to news alertson the car radio. But be careful - don't try to reach your car if it is not safe to do so, and remain vigilant about carbonmonoxide emissions from your car if it is a closed space, such as a garage.
12. Tune-in to broadcast and radio news for important news alerts."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.