WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s (CA-06) Emergency Reporting Act (H.R. 1250), a bill that will improve the resiliency of communications networks during emergencies.

“During an emergency, access to reliable communications networks is absolutely crucial. They are how we receive emergency alerts, call 9-1-1 for help, and navigate evacuation routes. They can be the difference between life and death,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “As California continues to fight wildfires across the state, we must implement swift protections that can better prepare us for the effects of the climate crisis. By passing the Emergency Reporting Act, the House is taking decisive action to reinforce our communications networks and provide state and local governments with the resources to prepare for future disasters. It will also support 911 centers and first responders to protect our communities and save American lives.”

As the climate crisis worsens, the wildfire threat has become a nearly year-round danger in California and much of the West. In 2020, California had its worst fire season on record with around 4.1 million estimated acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Already in 2021, California is outpacing those numbers, and has experienced more than 4,900 fire incidents burning over 142,000 acres and damaging or destroying almost 120 structures.

As extreme weather events increase in regularity and severity, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has an obligation to assist state and local governments in preparing for, responding to, and learning from major disasters. However, the agency’s response to major disasters has been inconsistent. With wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters on the rise, it is critical that the FCC responds adequately and swiftly to assess emergency communications. By requiring field hearings, reporting, and policy recommendations, the Emergency Reporting Act will help ensure that all disasters, regardless of their location, receive the necessary time and resources from the FCC.

Additionally, the Emergency Reporting Act would improve standards that require mobile carriers to report network outages to 911 centers. While existing outage reporting requirements exist at the FCC, the notification threshold is high and can lead to situations in which 911 centers are left in the dark about service outages in their territory, jeopardizing public safety.

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