Eshoo, Matsui Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Improve Emergency Response Communications Networks During Natural Disasters

February 25, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) reintroduced legislation to improve communications networks during natural disasters. The Emergency Reporting Act would help ensure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides resources to state and local governments preparing for and responding to natural disasters. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Burr (R-NC).

This legislation would also improve communication between mobile carriers experiencing network outages and 911 centers. The current system often leads to situations in which 911 centers are unaware of service outages, placing public safety at risk.

“When disaster strikes, like the wildfires that devastated our community last year, people need to know they can call 9-1-1 and receive immediate assistance. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor the Emergency Reporting Act to require comprehensive reporting on network outages after disasters and improve information sharing between wireless companies and 9-1-1 dispatchers,” said Rep. Eshoo. “The new reporting requirements will ensure that the weak spots in our communications networks are addressed before future emergencies, and information sharing will alert 9-1-1 operators when calls are no longer reaching their stations, which will save lives.”

“We can’t control natural disasters, but we can prepare for our responses to them,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “During an emergency, having reliable communications networks saves lives. This bipartisan legislation will ensure we have the resources in place to establish strong communications pathways and provide regular updates to first responders so we can help those in need during crises.”

“When hurricanes strike, North Carolinians depend on resilient communication networks to reach out for help or contact loved ones during an emergency,” said Sen. Burr. “The Emergency Reporting Act strengthens these networks by improving the coordination between state and local governments and the FCC to ensure they have the tools to prepare for, respond to, and learn from major natural disasters. I’m proud to work with Senator Klobuchar on this important legislation and I urge the Senate’s swift passage.”

“In the face of a life-threatening emergency, Americans need to be able to rely on our emergency communications networks to get them the aid they need,” said Rep. Matsui. “The Emergency Reporting Act will help ensure that the FCC is supporting our state and local partners as they prepare for, respond to, and learn from major disasters – giving our communications networks the resiliency to handle even the worst disasters like our California wildfires. This bill will also support 911 centers and first responders to protect our communities and save American lives.”

“It is vital that we review the communication infrastructure in place after a major weather event to maximize coordinated public safety information during a future crisis,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “These systems must be reliable and standardized to allow for an effective response from local, state and federal leaders as they recover. Our legislation helps to ensure we are ready to achieve that paramount goal.”

“Being able to call 911 during a natural disaster is a matter of life and death and we must ensure that first responders, law enforcement and the public can rely on these services. Our district has depended on efficient and reliable emergency dispatch services during recent wildfires and that’s why I’ve signed on as an original coauthor of the Emergency Reporting Act. This bill helps us better prepare for and respond to natural disasters like fires and address any potential weaknesses before they become problems. I’ll work closely with Rep. Matsui and Senator Klobuchar to ensure this bill is signed into law to help our district and our state be better prepared to respond effectively in case of a disaster,” said Rep. Thompson.

“Natural disasters are becoming a more frequent phenomenon, and we need to ensure our infrastructure is able to withstand whatever comes its way,” said Rep. Huffman. “When disasters strike, first responders and the public depend on their mobile networks and communication systems – but as we’ve seen during wildfires in California, blackouts have left people without this critical service. Folks shouldn’t have to worry about being able to reach out for help or contact loved ones during an emergency. The Federal Communications Commission has a responsibility to address the danger of communications outages during a disaster, and this legislation will give it the direction it needs to respond to future outages and make our communities more resilient.”

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