Sweeping alert affects communications providers in 150+ counties across 10 states and DC.

As we anticipated, the FCC has activated its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), to enable it to monitor damage to broadcast and telecommunications facilities during Hurricane Sandy.  (Note that the activation has occurred even though the FCC itself is shut down because of the storm — major props to the folks in the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for stepping up to shoulder this important responsibility.)

The DIRS is a voluntary, web-based system that communications providers – a universe that includes wireless, wireline, broadcast, cable and Voice over Internet Protocol providers – can use to report “communications infrastructure status and situational awareness information during times of crisis.” The FCC is asking that providers submit their reports starting 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, and every day after that by 10:00 a.m. until DIRS is deactivated.

In particular, the Commission wants to know, among other things, the status of communications equipment, restoration efforts, power (i.e., whether providers are using commercial power, generator or battery), and access to fuel, if they provide service to certain affected areas.

What are those areas? Given the enormous size of Sandy, there are a lot of them. Take a deep breath. Here are the areas the FCC has identified:

Connecticut: Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, Tolland, Windham

District of Columbia

Delaware: Kent, New Castle, Sussex

Maryland: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, Worcester

Massachusetts: Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Plymouth

New Jersey: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, Warren

New York: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Westchester

Pennsylvania: Adams, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Frannklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Tioga, Union, York

Rhode Island: Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence, Washington

Virginia: Accomack, Alexandria City, Arlington, Caroline, Charles City, Chesapeake City, Clarke, Essex, Fairfax, Fairfax City, Falls Church City, Fauquier, Gloucester, Hampton City, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Loudoun, Manassas City, Manassas Park City, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Newport News City, Norfolk City, Northampton, Northumberland, Portsmouth City, Poquoson City, Prince William, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Suffolk City, Surry, Virginia Beach City, Westmoreland, Williamsburg City, York

West Virginia: Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan

If you’re a communications provider in any of those areas, you can submit your update by accessing DIRS at https://www.fcc.gov/nors/disaster/. (You can also look for the e-filing link on the Commission’s main webpage (www.fcc.gov) or PSHSB webpage (www.fcc.gov/pshs), but the direct DIRS link is easiest.) If you haven’t already signed up as a DIRS participant, you’ll be required to provide contact information and obtain a User ID in order to access DIRS.

Communications providers are reminded that Network Outage Reporting System obligations are suspended for the duration of the DIRS activation in the counties where DIRS has been activated.

If you lose internet access, several FCC staff members involved in disaster preparedness have published their cellphone numbers:

John Healy (202) 391-2486, (215) 847-8094, or john.healy@fcc.gov

Jeff Goldthorp (202) 418-1096, (202) 253-1595 (cell), jeffery.goldthorp@fcc.gov

Julia Tu (202) 418-0731, 202-321-4399, julia.tu@fcc.gov

Michael Caiafa (202) 418-1311, (202) 277-5690 (cell), michael.caiafa@fcc.gov

David Ahn (571) 232-8487 (cell), (202) 418-0853, david.ahn@fcc.gov

If you are in the path of the hurricane but are not in any of the counties listed above, check the FCC’s home page, www.fcc.gov, for further additions to the list of reporting areas.

In similar emergency situations in the past, the FCC has advised that satellite earth station operators needing to operate emergency facilities may apply electronically at http://licensing.fcc.gov/myibfs; or if they cannot access that system, they may apply by letter, e-mail, and even by telephone.  All requests should provide the technical parameters of the proposed operation and a contact point.  Requests not made through myibfs should be re-filed through that system as soon as possible.  Thus far (as of 7:00 p.m. on October 29) we have not seen a formal advisory from the FCC confirming that this procedure is in effect for Sandy, but we figure it’s a good bet that it is.