Frequently Asked Questions About IPAWS

Find answers to frequently asked questions about IPAWS and other alert systems from alerting authorities and alert originators.

What is IPAWS?

The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System, and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio.

What is WEA?

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are short emergency messages from authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial public alerting authorities that can be broadcast from cell towers to any WEA‐enabled mobile device in a locally targeted area. Wireless providers primarily use cell broadcast technology for WEA message delivery. WEA is a partnership among FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and wireless providers to enhance public safety.

What is EAS?

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires radio and TV broadcasters, cable TV, wireless cable systems, satellite and wireline operators to provide the President with capability to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency. Broadcast, cable, and satellite operators are the stewards of this important public service in close partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities. FEMA, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is responsible for implementing, maintaining and operating the EAS at the federal level.

What is CAP?

The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), a digital format for exchanging emergency alerts, allows a consistent alert message to be disseminated simultaneously over multiple communications pathways. FEMA has worked with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards to develop the IPAWS standard.

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 the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

What is an “Alerting Authority?”

An Alerting Authority is a jurisdiction with the designated authority to alert and warn the public when there is an impending natural or human-made disaster, threat, or dangerous or missing person.

What is a COG?

A federal, state, local, tribal or territorial alerting authority that applies for authorization to use the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is designated as a Collaborative Operating Group or “COG.” 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.

Last updated January 27, 2022