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. Click here to 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.
How to sign up for IPAWS
A Federal, State, territorial, tribal, or local alerting authority that applies for authorization to use IPAWS is designated as a Collaborative Operating Group or “COG” by the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO). There are currently numerous types of COGs affiliated with IPAWS varying in size, structure and governance styles. A COG may have members from multiple jurisdictions with each individual member account administered through its software system
Step #1 – Select IPAWS compatible software
Access to IPAWS is free; however, to send a message using IPAWS, an organization must procure its own IPAWS compatible software. Software should be successfully tested in the IPAWS Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) test environment. Consult your software developer to ensure your system is IPAWS-OPEN compatible and provides the capabilities that your organization requires. For a list of private sector developers who provide IPAWS-OPEN to develop software, please see:
Step #2 – Apply for a Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA
To become a COG, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) governing system security must be executed between the sponsoring organization and FEMA. Each MOA is specifically tailored to the sponsoring organization and their interoperable software system. Please download the following MOA application, review the instructions, complete and return to email@example.com. Please indicate in the subject line of the email “COG Application.”
The FEMA COG coordinator will prepare and return the MOA for signature after it is submitted. After being signed by the applicant, the MOA will be routed for FEMA signatures. Once executed, a COG identification and digital certificate will be generated and implemented in IPAWS-OPEN. A copy of the executed MOA and COG Identification (ID) will be returned to the sponsoring organization. Additionally, the COG ID and digital certificate will be provided in order to configure the IPAWS compatible software system. After completing these steps, the organization will have the capability to exchange standards-compliant messages and content between COGs .
Step #3 – Apply for public alerting permissions
Alerting authorities that want to send alerts to the public through IPAWS must complete an application defining the types of alerts they intend to issue and the extent of their geographic warning area. The application for IPAWS public alerting authority will be provided when you apply for a COG MOA, along with contact information for a designated state reviewer. In order to ensure consistency with state public alerting plans, the application must be reviewed and signed by a designated state official before it is submitted to FEMA.
Step #4 – Complete IPAWS web-based training
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers the independent study course, IS-247a Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. The goal of the course is to provide authorized public safety officials with:
- Increased awareness of the benefits of using IPAWS for effective public warnings
- Skills to draft appropriate, effective, and accessible warning messages
- Best practices in the effective use of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to reach all members of their communities
The course should take approximately two hours to complete and is a prerequisite for full access to IPAWS-OPEN for the purpose of public alerting. FEMA does not provide training on third-party authoring software. Contact your vendor for any software support questions.
Completing the application
Once the public alerting application and web-based training is complete, specific alerting permissions will be implemented in IPAWS-OPEN. At that point the individual members specified by the COG will be able to send alerts and warnings in the geographically prescribed areas.
Initial functionality includes the ability to access and send alerts through:
- the Emergency Alert System (EAS)
- the National Weather Service (NWS) All-Hazards Emergency Message Collection System for NWS-approved alerting authorities
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), depending on local implementation by commercial mobile service providers.
See the IPAWS Alerting Authorities web page for a list of emergency management organizations with access to IPAWS for public alerting.
Homeland Security Grant Program
The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) and the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP) funds a range of public alert and warning preparedness activities, including planning, equipment purchase, training, and exercises.
The IPAWS PMO developed the “Fiscal Year 2013 Supplemental Guidance on Public Alert and Warning” which contains guidance on eligible public alert and warning activities and equipment standards for State, territorial, tribal, and local (STTL) prospective grantees. The purpose of the Supplemental Guidance is to promote consistency in policy across Federal grant programs, to ensure compatibility among Federally-funded projects, and provide guidance to STTL public alerting authorities and prospective grantees on:
- Public alert and warning activities that can be funded through Federal grants
- Technical standards that facilitate interoperability
- Recommendations for planning, coordinating, and implementing alert and warning projects
- Understanding Federal grant requirements
- Coordinating with the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator (SWIC)
- Considering regional, multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary projects
- Considering cross-border communications
Presently, FEMA does not provide grants to private entities and/or businesses. Private entities and businesses are encouraged to coordinate their requests with their SWIC, the statewide interoperability governing body, and/or the appropriate stakeholders at the STTL levels of government.
Policy planners and grant writers are encouraged to contact the IPAWS Program Management Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or the FEMA Grants Office prior to initiating alert and warning program activities to receive program guidance and assistance, tools, resources, and updates.
The Supplemental Guidance will continue to evolve as new technologies emerge, and will support increased knowledge on the use of these new technologies. Click here to access the Fiscal Year 2013 Supplemental Guidance on Public Alert and Warning document
Attend a Webinar or Conference
Public safety officials are invited to participate in monthly practitioner webinars, usually the first Wednesday in odd months at 12:00 PM Eastern time. Developers of alert tools and technologies are invited to participate in monthly developer webinars, usually the third Wednesday in even months at 12:00 PM Eastern time. Subscribe to the practitioner email list or developers email list to receive webinar invitations. See the IPAWS Working Group schedule for current announcements.
Additionally, IPAWS PMO leadership and subject matter experts participate in a wide variety of industry conferences, events, technical demonstrations, and educational panels. Please visit the Events page for more information.
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.”
Click here to see a broad, but not exhaustive, list of IPAWS PMO partners.