October 28, 2020

Outage Notifications Required Under California SB670

New Legislation to Require Outage Notifications

The reliance on cellular phones for communications has progressively grown over the last 20 years. When 9-1-1 wireless technology was implemented, 9-1-1 call volume to PSAPs was relatively low. Now, wireless 9-1-1 calls account for approximately 87% of the PSAP’s total inbound calls. Society is a significantly more mobile and interconnected. As a result, the public expects to be able to reach 9-1-1 from their wireless phones at any time, particularly during disaster events when they need it the most. When a provider experiences an outage, this can severely impact citizens ability to get help.

However, recent disaster events have revealed that even communications networks can become compromised during disasters. Manufacturers and administrators make every effort to make systems redundant and minimize vulnerabilities. However, it is simply not possible to mitigate all possibilities for damage to communications systems.

During a disaster, it is important for citizens to know whether or not their 9-1-1 call will make it through to the PSAP. The recent California wildfires have called attention to service outages. Senator Mike McGuire of California has introduced Senate Bill 670 that will require telephone companies to notify California’s Office of Emergency Services (CALOES) when an outage occurs that would impact 9-1-1 services or emergency notifications.

“Californians cannot afford to be without the most up-to-date information during times of disaster,” McGuire said. “Failure to report outages affecting 911 service or emergency alerting capabilities can wreak havoc on communities and puts the public’s safety at risk.”

The California Association of Competitive Telecommunications Companies has voiced opposition to the bill citing that the reporting thresholds in the bill would be burdensome. Additionally, the method of communicating outages to CALOES, an email, is required when there is a single customer experiencing an outage. This level of reporting may create a large number of emails that do not serve the larger purpose of the bill. That is, being aware during disaster events of significant outages impacting citizens. f

Related Story: Phones Fail in California Fires, Highlighting Cell Vulnerability

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