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Blog Category: NOAA

Working to Ensure Americans Remain Connected When Disaster Strikes

Cross-post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hurricane season along much of the U.S. coast. And with hurricanes comes the increased possibility that communications could be disrupted.

Less than two years ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of death and destruction including disrupted communications for millions of people and thousands of businesses along the East Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that about a quarter of cell sites across 10 states and the District of Columbia were knocked out of service during the peak of the storm.

As the Executive Branch agency primarily responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information issues, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with other federal agencies to help Americans remain connected in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies.

In its report released last August, the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force called on NTIA and the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the FCC to develop recommendations that help facilitate improved resiliency for cell phone towers, data centers and other critical communications infrastructure in the event of a power disruption following a disaster. NTIA and the Energy Department expect to complete the recommendations later this year.

In the meantime, the FCC has developed some steps consumers can take to ensure they remain connected should disaster strike and power is lost. The recommendations, developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include charging your wireless phones and other wireless devices ahead of a coming storm and using text messaging instead of making a phone call to help alleviate network congestion during and after a storm strikes.

For more information on what to expect from the upcoming hurricane season, check out the latest predictions for the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions from NTIA’s Commerce sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Silicon Valley to Highlight Administration Support for Innovation Economy

Innovation is the key driver of U.S. economic competitiveness and job creation. That is why it is a key pillar of the Department of Commerce’s innovation agenda. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker made her first trip as Secretary to Silicon Valley to advance the Obama Administration’s efforts to encourage innovation.

Secretary Pritzker made her first stop in Sunnyvale at the Plug and Play Tech Center, a business accelerator for tech startups. After touring Plug and Play, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at an event hosted by the Churchill Club, highlighting the Administration’s commitment to spurring U.S. economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness. She described the Commerce Department’s work to invest in digital infrastructure, strengthen intellectual property protections, and support advanced manufacturing, among other initiatives.

Secretary Pritzker also announced two new Commerce efforts to unleash more federal data for entrepreneurs and businesses, which are being spearheaded by the Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Census Bureau. NOAA has released a Request for Information to explore the feasibility of a public-private partnership to release more of the 20 terabytes of environmental and weather data that the agency collects each day. And the Census Explorer, an interactive map of demographics, is adding new tech workforce and payroll data, which will allow employers to see where the workers they need are living.

Noting the significant progress that the Administration has made to support science and technology, she even detailed how President Obama has done more for innovation than any other American President. “Simply put, I believe that President Obama has done more for innovation than any other President in history.”

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

As communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently launched a comprehensive initiative to build a “Weather-ready” nation to make America safer by saving more lives and protecting livelihoods during such events as tornado outbreaks, intense heat waves, flooding, active hurricane seasons, and solar storms that threaten electrical and communication systems.

NOAA also announced that 2011 tied the 2008 record for billion-dollar disasters in the United States so far experiencing nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more. The latest event to surpass the $1 billion price tag is this summer’s flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest. This year’s losses have so far amounted to more than $35 billion. Release

Secretary Locke to Appoint Special Master to Review NOAA Law Enforcement Cases, Restricts Use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund

On September 23, 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke announced sweeping reforms to increase accountability and transparency and strengthen the public’s trust in NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation. Locke, invoking his authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, announced he will appoint the Honorable Charles B. Swartwood, III (Ret.) to serve as Special Master to review enforcement cases the Commerce Department’s Inspector General identified in its most recent report as problematic, some dating as far back as 2001. Locke will also ask the Special Master to review the complaints that the IG received that were not discussed in the September Report to see if review of those complaints is also warranted.  Judge Swartwood will make recommendations to Locke on whether to take action to modify or remit the penalties.

Judge Swartwood formerly served as Chief Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts and currently serves as the Chairman of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission.

NOAA Reopens More than 30,000 Square Miles in the Gulf to Fishing

Map of Reopened Fishing AreaToday NOAA reopened 3,114 square miles of Gulf waters offshore of the western Florida panhandle to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

“We are pleased to continue moving forward with reopening portions of Gulf federal waters to recreational and commercial fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’d like to thank everyone for their patience throughout this process, as we work to ensure seafood safety remains our primary objective.”

At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 55 miles northeast of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The total area is about one percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Release