This section contains a description of the process public safety officials undergo to apply for access to use IPAWS to send public alerts and warnings.
The following information provides guidelines on how an authorized alerting authority can take advantage of using IPAWS-OPEN (Open Platform for Emergency Notifications).
How to Sign Up for IPAWS
A Federal, State, local, tribal, or territorial 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 with 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 have access to an IPAWS-OPEN to develop system, 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. In order to apply for IPAWS access, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with subject line of the mail "COG Application". We will then provide you with an application form and instructions to begin the process.
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.
- IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed (Internet services)
See the IPAWS Alerting Authorities web page for a list of emergency management organizations with access to IPAWS for public alerting.