This section contains information about the Common Alerting Protocol, an international standard that is used by IPAWS to send public alerts and warnings; CAP allows unique technologies to be integrated with IPAWS.
State, local, tribal, and territorial alerting authorities may already have a range of unique alerting and dissemination technology at their disposal to alert the public of an emergency. These systems could include, but are not limited to, emergency telephone networks, sirens, or digital road signs. These unique systems can be upgraded to be compliant with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in order to seamlessly incorporate with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and make the alert and warning process streamlined and more resilient.
Benefits of Upgrading Existing Unique Systems to the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)
The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is an international technical data specification developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) that allows emergency messages to be disseminated over a wide variety of existing and emerging public alerting systems. In addition to the basic CAP standard, a supplemental IPAWS Profile technical specification was developed to ensure compatibility with existing warning systems used in the United States. FEMA has formally adopted CAP and the IPAWS Profile to implement IPAWS.
Emergency Alert System (EAS) participants (broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers) were required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to upgrade their equipment to be capable of receiving CAP-formatted alerts. However, there is no requirement for State, local, tribal, or territorial alerting authorities to make similar upgrades to their unique alerting systems. By making unique alerting systems CAP-compliant, alerting authorities will be able to send a single alert through IPAWS that will reach their unique alerting systems, radio, television, cell phones and other mobile devices, internet services, and all emerging CAP-compliant technologies. Using multiple channels for public alerts increases the likelihood that the message will successfully reach the public. In addition, using a single CAP alert message reduces the amount of time required to prepare separate, system-specific alerts, thus speeding the delivery of potentially critical, life-saving information.
IPAWS is not mandatory and does not replace existing methods of alerting, but does offer a capability to make alerting more effective, reliable, integrated, and flexible. If your public safety organization is interested in upgrading your unique system(s) to CAP, please refer your system manufacturer or system integrator to the Alert Origination Service Providers section of the website.
Unique Alert Services (UAS)
Unique Alert Services are systems that have permission to retrieve alerts directly from IPAWS and delivers the alerts to their customer base. This system retrieves alerts from IPAWS and delivers appropriate alerts to various pathways such as digital signs, subscription based notifications, emails, reverse 911 systems, websites, or programs based on geographic location and/or type of alert.