Martin Proposes New Public Safety Bureau

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FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is proposing the creation of a new Public Safety/Homeland Security bureau to coordinate future disaster planning.

"The Bureau will develop policies and rules to promote effective and reliable communications for public safety, national security, and disaster management," he said at a special Katrina-related FCC meeting in Atlanta Thursday.

Its oversight will include: "Public Safety Communications, Priority Emergency Communications, Alert and Warning of U.S. Citizens, Continuity of Government Operations, Disaster Management Coordination (i.e., infrastructure reporting and analysis in times of disaster)" and more.

The alert and warning elements have come under some scrutiny, with some in Congress last week asking why the Emergency Alert System was not activated by the Bush administration or local governments, and asking whether the FCC had a comprehensive disaster plan.

Martin also said the commission would create an "expert panel" to to review the imact of Katrina on communications and recommend ways to improve disaster preparedness.

It will also provide $211 million in relief for the affected areas, from the Universal Service Fund, to help reconnect evacuees without phone service.

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