As of noon ET Saturday, no TV or radio station had been knocked out by the hurricane, which hit North Carolina and is now moving up the East Coast toward New York, according to the FCC. Some 5,000 homes have lost cable TV service, however.
As of noon ET today, radio and TV stations in the Carolinas were standing up to the high winds and rain of Hurricane Irene, FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett told reporters during a 2 p.m. teleconference.
And cable TV was faring fairly well, too, Barnett said. Just six cable systems — five in North Carolina and one in South Carolina — “were down or partially down,” affecting service to around 5,000 subscribers.
Some 12,000 homes — 8,000 in North Carolina and 4,000 in South Carolina — had lost wireline telephone service, he said.
The FCC had no count on how many cell phone subscribers were affected by the storm, but Barnett said that 130 cell sites were down and another 215 were on backup power. Most were in North Carolina.
Barnett said that the FCC would update the figures on Sunday at around noon.
Much of the information is coming from four, two-man “Roll Call” vehicles that the FCC and FEMA put into operation to monitor the health of the telecommunications infrastructure in emergency situations.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who was also on the call, said the Roll Call units were a “unique asset.”
“[They] give first responders almost immediate situational awareness of the communications landscape and allows response teams to focus efforts where it is needed,” he said.
Barnett said such monitoring is key to keeping communication links up and running.
If cell phone carriers know what sites are down, they can move in temporary mobile sites, expand the coverage of surrounding cells or send in repair crews that were strategically positions before the storm, Barnett said.”
The FCC also released 12 tips on “how to communicate during an emergency:”
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 personnel and/or family;
3. Try text messaging, also known as short messaging service (SMS) when using your wireless phone. In many cases text messages will go through when your call may not. It will also help free up more “space” for emergency communications on the telephone network;
4. If possible try a variety of communications services if you are unsuccessful in getting through with one. For example, if you are 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 networks and 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’ve ended a call to redial the previous number. If you do this too quickly, the data from the handset to the cell sites do not have enough 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 family members 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 an evacuation. 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 alerts on 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 carbon monoxide 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.