The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public. This article will provide an overview of IPAWS.
Alerts and Access
IPAWS sends alerts through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, to radio and television through the Emergency Alert System, and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio.
States, counties, local governments, and tribes can apply for access to IPAWS and obtain a COG after signing an MOU with FEMA. For more information about this process, or to apply for access, you can visit FEMA's website.
IPAWS allows Alerting Authorities to write their own message using commercially available software that is CAP compliant. The message is then delivered to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN), where it is authenticated and then delivered simultaneously through multiple communication pathways. Through IPAWS, one message is created to reach as many people as possible to save lives and protect property.
Utilizing multiple pathways for public alerts increases the likelihood that the message will successfully reach the public. IPAWS is structured to facilitate this functionality.
Cell phones and mobile devices receive WEAs based on location, even if cellular networks are overloaded and can no longer support calls, texts, and emails.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration delivers alerts through NOAA Weather Radio.
Alerts are also available from internet service providers and unique system developers.
State, local, territorial, and tribal alerting systems such as emergency telephone networks, giant voice sirens, and digital road signs may also receive alerts from IPAWS-OPEN, and future alerting technologies and systems can easily be integrated into IPAWS.
The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System was established under Executive Order 13407. IPAWS provides the capability to notify the public of impending natural and human-made disasters and emergencies and public safety information. In a national emergency, the President may use IPAWS to communicate to the public as well. IPAWS delivers timely, geographically-targeted messages during emergencies to save lives and protect property through multiple communication pathways such as the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, NOAA Weather Radio, and other internet-connected devices and services.
The IPAWS Modernization Act of 2015 calls for:
- Upgrading IPAWS to ensure the President can communicate to the public under all conditions.
- Establishing a subcommittee to the National Advisory Council composed of IPAWS stakeholders to expand collaboration and recommend improvements to the system.
- FEMA to submit annual performance reports.
The Act includes 19 additional system and implementation requirements which FEMA is evaluating and estimating the resources necessary to fulfill “to the extent feasible.”
IPAWS is guided by its mission to provide integrated services and capabilities to federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities that enable them to alert and warn their respective communities via multiple communications pathways.
The IPAWS PMO is also guided by FEMA’s mission of helping people before, during, and after disasters. Furthermore, IPAWS advances the 2018-2022 FEMA Strategic Plan and the agency’s strategic imperatives by building a culture of preparedness, readying the nation for catastrophic disasters, and reducing the complexity of FEMA.
To provide timely alerts and warning to the public in the preservation of life and property using the most effective means for delivering alerts that are available at any given time.
- Create, maintain, and evolve an integrated interoperable environment for alert and warning.
- Make alerts and warnings more effective.
- Strengthen the resilience of IPAWS infrastructure.
- Enhance the means for monitoring and measuring success.
- Develop an IPAWS office workforce that is well-trained and satisfied.
Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Partners
Federal Governance Partners are federal authorities responsible for national public alerts and warnings policies and regulations. They represent a large and unique segment of the emergency management community and the public. State, local, tribal, and territorial public safety officials are designated within their level of government as an alerting authority responsible for communicating emergency alerts and warnings to the public.
FEMA supports our Tribal Government Partners to enable them to alert and warn their communities during emergencies to save lives and protect property. To enhance the emergency preparedness of tribes, the agency:
- Supports nation‐to‐nation tribal relationships and recognizes the unique cross-jurisdictional challenges they face with emergency management and public alerting.
- Collaborates with tribal governments to develop education and training curricula, guidance, and technical support. Provides supplemental federal grant guidance for eligible public alert and warning activity expenses through the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program.
- Works with FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute to deliver training to tribal emergency managers that explains IPAWS capabilities and benefits.
Legislative Government Partners are the Congressional committees that oversee IPAWS. FEMA submits periodic reports and delivers briefings with IPAWS implementation updates to the committees. FEMA conducted an interactive end-to-end IPAWS concept of operations demonstration for members of Congress and their staff at the United States Capitol Visitors Center.
The terms located in this section are listed alphabetically.
- AM: Amplitude Modulation
- CAP: Common Alerting Protocol
- COG: Collaborative Operating Group
- EAS: Emergency Alert System
- FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency
- FM: Frequency Modulation
- IPAWS: Integrated Public Alert and Warning System
- IPAWS-OPEN: Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Open Platform for Emergency Networks
- MOU: Memorandum of Understanding
- NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- PMO: Program Management Office
- WEA: Wireless Emergency Alert