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Background on Wireless Emergency Alerts

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) provide alerting authorities the ability to send 90 character, geographically targeted text-like alerts to the public, warning of imminent threats to life and property.  The initial requirements of the system were developed by an advisory committee established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in accordance with the Warning, Alert and Response Network (“WARN”) Act of 2006. The Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC) conducted meetings during 2008 with findings published in three FCC Report and Order documents.

During 2009, the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) worked with the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), the Alliance of Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to establish a specification for the interface between the federal alert aggregator/gateway and commercial service provider gateways. In November 2009, the ATIS/TIA Joint WEA Working Group approved the Joint ATIS/TIA WEA Federal Alert Gateway to CMSP Gateway Interface Specification (J-STD-101) and the specification was adopted as the Government Interface Design Specification for the IPAWS federal alert aggregator/gateway.  The adoption initiated the 28-month period during which participating Commercial Mobile Service Providers (CSMP) needed to develop, test and deploy their portion of the WEA system.  In addition, ATIS and TIA approved the Joint ATIS/TIA WEA Federal Alert Gateway to CMSP Gateway Interface Test Specification (J-STD-102).

A key differentiator of the WEA capability versus existing subscription-based text messaging alert services currently available in some localities is that WEA will enable alert messages to be broadcast to any capable cell phone within range of a targeted cellular communications tower. Wireless Emergency Alerts also utilize different communications channels and protocols in cellular systems which decrease the impact of network congestion on alert message delivery during times of emergency.  Wireless Emergency Alerts facilitate the dissemination of three types of alerts: Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat Alerts, and America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts.

IPAWS Commercial Mobile Service Provider Authorization Process

IPAWS uses a standardized process to ensure that all voluntarily participating commercial service providers (CMSP) are duly authorized and vetted in accordance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation and guidance.  A participating carrier may apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to connect to IPAWS in order to disseminate Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), created by authorized message originators, to their subscribers.  The following information is for CMSPs interested in, or currently participating in, WEA and IPAWS.

Step #1 – Select WEA Compatible Solution

Connection to IPAWS for CMSP free; however, to receive a message from IPAWS, a CMSP must procure its own WEA compatible solution.  This solution must be implemented in accordance with J-STD-101.  The solution must also be successfully tested by the carrier and/or service provider in the IPAWS-Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) test environment, in accordance with J-STD-102.

Step #2 –Request Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) / Interconnectivity Security Agreement (ISA) from FEMA for Testing

CMSPs must request the requisite Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)/Interconnectivity Security Agreement (ISA) documents governing the connectivity and system security related to the test system from FEMA, and they must be executed between the CMSP/service provider, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Each MOA/ISA is specifically tailored to the sponsoring organization.  The test environment MOA/ISA materials are available by sending an email to ipaws@dhs.gov.

Upon receipt of the signed MOA/ISA documents from the CMSP, the documents are routed for signature by the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO), the FEMA Office of the Chief Information Officer, and DHS, in order.  Upon completion of the signature process, fully executed copies are provided to the CMSP so that testing can begin.

Step #3 –Request Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) / Interconnectivity Security Agreement (ISA) from FEMA for Production

The CMSP must request the requisite MOA/ISA documents governing the connectivity and system security related to the production (live) system from FEMA and they must be executed between the CMSP/service provider, FEMA, and DHS.  Each MOA/ISA is specifically tailored to the sponsoring organization.  The production environment MOA/ISA materials are available by sending an email to ipaws@dhs.gov.  

Upon receipt of the signed MOA/ISA documents from the CMSP, the documents are routed for signature by the IPAWS PMO, the FEMA Office of the Chief Information Officer, and DHS, in order.  Upon completion of the signature process, fully executed copies are provided to the CMSP so that production can begin.

Please note that the test and  production MOA/ISA materials can be requested and processed at the same time.

Step #4 –CMSP and IPAWS Testing

The CMSP must test their solution withIPAWS, in accordance with the J-STD-102 test specification.  This activity ensures that the CMSP/service provider solution is compatible with IPAWS-OPEN.  The testing is typically scheduled to occur in several blocks over several days.  A test report is generated and provided to the CMSP and the IPAWS PMO after the conclusion of the testing, which can typically be completed in less than two weeks.

Step #5 – Production CMSP/IPAWS Connectivity Implementation

The IPAWS PMO WEA coordinator, working with the IPAWS PMO technical team, DHS and FEMA network personnel ensures that the appropriate test and production MOAs/ISAs are fully executed, testing has been completed, and the technical design for the connectivity is complete and approved.  Once all is in order, the implementation is scheduled with the CMSP, DHS and FEMA IPAWS PMO.  Implementation typically takes four to six hours.  Once the implementation is complete, the CMSP is considered to be in an operational state and will be capable of receiving messages from alerting authorities for dissemination to the CMSP’s subscribers.

 

Return to the FEMA IPAWS Home Page.

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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