Here are the comments I filed in the FCC's broadband proceeding:
I recently left the Department of Homeland Security, and I am submitting this short comment on my own behalf.
I urge the FCC to ensure that any wireless broadband plan include an opportunity for the use of standardized, low-bit-size messages in emergencies.
After a disaster, many wireless voice systems will fail, but wireless data, which can accept latency, is much more likely to get through, particularly if it is formatted in a way that can be recognized and prioritized by whatever towers and switches are still functioning.
Ideally, it should be possible to send a standardized message with just a few characters that will say "I'm safe" or "I'm in trouble" or "I will need help soon" and provide location data by pulling the E911 capability plus the name and phone number from subscriber records. The message could be sent to a predesignated group of recipients, or to everyone in the subscriber's speed dial or contacts list. It could also be sent to a standard government (perhaps DHS) server for distribution to first responders based on location. (This would require consent, but hopefully the consent could be obtained beforehand, especially with moderately predictable disasters like hurricanes.)
Conceivably, it could also be sent to a predesignated public site so that rescues and assistance are not slowed by government coordination. It is easy to imagine a website maintained by volunteers where messages are prioritized for assistance by "crowdsourcing" the prioritization process much the way Digg identifies the top stories of the day. This too would require consent, but it would allow Americans to rescue themselves, their friends and neighbors, without a debilitating (and often imprudent) reliance on government agencies.
The FCC could play a useful role in convening the service providers and determining the best way to standardize the protocols associated with such messages and encouraging government and perhaps private parties to supply reliable servers to which the messages could be sent for organization and priority.