US wireless association CTIA teamed with domestic utility companies to improve network resilience and disaster recovery coordination, after a series of extreme weather exposed flaws in response systems.

The new Cross-Sector Resiliency Forum will bring together members of CTIA and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) over the coming months to identify near-term steps to streamline information sharing between operators and utility companies; organise joint exercises to prepare for wildfire and hurricane events; and pinpoint long-term initiatives to enhance cooperation in emergency situations.

EEI represents electric companies serving 220 million people across all 50 states.

In the coming years, participants will continue to meet on a biannual basis to coordinate best practices and opportunities for further improvements, and jointly engage with federal, state and local officials for crisis preparation.

During a Congressional hearing on 27 February, CTIA VP of regulatory affairs Matt Gerst said the new collaboration reflects the mobile industry’s dependence on utility partners.

Mobile phones are “one of the first things you grab when an emergency happens”, he noted, citing calls to emergency services, friends and family, along with accessing alerts as examples. Availability of such access and services “depends on power being there” to maintain network operation.

The move comes after the Federal Communications Commission called on operators to better prepare for future extreme weather after hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the southern US, and wildfires in California crippled communication systems.

Anthony Gossner, fire chief for the California city of Santa Rosa, told congress communications outages made it difficult to warn residents of wildfires headed their way.

In a statement to Mobile World Live, Gerst said “enhancing coordination before, during and after disasters will enhance resiliency and ensure wireless is available when Americans need it most”.