This section contains information on the IPAWS’ capabilities, who can use IPAWS to send alerts and warnings, and organizations that work with the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) to support public alerts and warnings.
FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is an internet-based capability Federal, State, territorial, tribal, and local authorities can use to issue critical public alerts and warnings. See which alerting authorities are approved to use IPAWS in your area.
IPAWS is accessed through software that meets IPAWS system requirements. There is no cost to send messages through IPAWS, although there may be costs associated with acquiring compatible alert origination software. IPAWS is not mandatory and does not replace existing methods of alerting, but instead complements existing systems and offers new capabilities.
IPAWS Offers New Capabilities
FEMA built IPAWS to ensure that under all conditions the President of the United States can alert and warn the American people. Federal, State, territorial, tribal and local authorities also have the opportunity to use IPAWS to send alerts and warnings within their jurisdictions. IPAWS improves alert and warning capabilities by allowing alerting authorities to deliver alerts simultaneously through multiple communications devices reaching as many people as possible to save lives and protect property. These communication pathways include:
- Emergency Alert System (EAS)
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
- National Weather Service Dissemination Systems, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio
- Unique Systems
- Future Systems
Wireless Emergency Alerts, in particular, generate tremendous interest among alerting authorities that wish to send geographically targeted alerts via wireless cell broadcasts. Through a partnership between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), FEMA, and commercial mobile service providers, alerting authorities are able to send WEAs, even when cellular networks are overloaded and can no longer support person-to-person calls, texts, or emails. Many commercial mobile service providers sell WEA-capable phones with the service already opted-in so that the public does not need to sign up to receive the alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts do not trigger charges for the alerting authority sending the message or the individual receiving the WEA.
IPAWS also enables the interoperable exchange of messages between government organizations to enhance situational awareness and collaboration. Government organizations choose incident management software that best fits their needs and can exchange messages with other IPAWS alerting authorities, as long as each software system is compatible with IPAWS, and each organization has established an IPAWS account.
Who Can Sign Up for IPAWS?
Federal, State, and local laws determine which public safety officials are granted the authority to alert the public of emergency situations. Specific authorities may be designated in a state’s emergency communications plans, such as the state’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) plan and America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert plan. Generally, eligible organizations are:
- Federal Agencies
- State Governments
- Territorial Governments
- Tribal Governments
- Local Governments
Other public or private sector organizations may be eligible depending on their public safety mission.
Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program Management Office (PMO) Partners
The IPAWS PMO’s partners are divided into five major functional groups: (1) the American people; (2) Federal governance; (3) Federal, State, territorial, tribal, and local alerting authorities (alerting authorities); (4) private sector industry; and (5) non-profit and advocacy organizations.
The IPAWS PMO collaborates with recognized government, industry leaders, and technical experts to ensure that IPAWS incorporates the latest technology and is practical for prospective users. The IPAWS PMO also works with all partner groups to: (1) detail what the partner needs to know about IPAWS and how it affects and can benefit them; (2) openly and collegially discuss program benefits, limitations, and solutions for emerging technologies; (3) create opportunities to solicit authentic feedback; and (4) provide partners with opportunities, training, guidance, and tools to enable them to collaborate with and participate in IPAWS for the purpose of accomplishing our shared goal of creating “an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people.”