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General Public

The American public is the foundation of all partner groups and the primary reason FEMA works to create an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible and comprehensive public alert and warning system.

It's important that all segments of the population understand the functions of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) and how to appropriately respond to alerts and warnings from public safety officials.

Where You Receive Alerts

Radio, Television and Cable

Learn about the Emergency Alert System, which sends alerts via radio, TV, and cable.

Emergency Alert System

NOAA Weather Radio

Learn about the alerts delivered through NOAA Weather Radio.

Mobile Phones

Learn about the Wireless Emergency Alerts you receive on your mobile phone.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

Internet-Based Services

Learn about internet-based services and unique alerting systems.

How Alerts Are Transmitted

IPAWS allows alerting authorities to write their own messages using open standards. The message is then authenticated by the IPAWS Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) to be delivered simultaneously through multiple pathways. 

Learn About IPAWS-OPEN

Types of Wireless Emergency Alerts

Presidential Alerts are a special class of alerts only sent during a national emergency.

Imminent Threat Alerts include natural or human-made disasters, extreme weather, active shooters, and other threatening emergencies that are current or emerging.

Public Safety Alerts contain information about a threat that may not be imminent or after an imminent threat has occurred. Public safety alerts are less severe than imminent threat alerts.

America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts are urgent bulletins issued in child-abduction cases. Rapid and effective public alerts often play a crucial role in returning a missing child safely. An AMBER Alert instantly enables the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Law enforcement assembles descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor and any other helpful information.

Test Messages assess the capability of state, local, tribal and territorial officials to send their WEAs. The message will state that this is a TEST.

AMBER Alerts

Rapid and effective public alerts often play a crucial role in returning that child to safety. For this reason, the IPAWS PMO has partnered with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to ensure that life-saving AMBER Alerts can be disseminated to as many people as possible.

The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly enable the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child.

When law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they determine whether the case meets their AMBER Alert program’s criteria. If it does, alert information is assembled, including descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, and suspected vehicle along with any other information available and valuable to identifying the child and suspect.

Historically, this information has been disseminated through the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which leverages the communication support of radio, television, cable, and satellite providers (EAS participants) and NOAA Weather Radio. In addition, AMBER Alerts may now also be disseminated via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Localities may also use digital signage or other alerting technologies if they are available.

IPAWS and Ready.gov

The IPAWS Project Management Office, in partnership with Ready.gov, has created public education products that are designed to help  the American public understand the functions of the public alert and warning system; prepare for emergencies; and how to access, use and respond to information from public safety officials.

Public Service Announcements for television and radio, in English and Spanish, were created to draw the public’s attention to WEAs and how they are an important, lifesaving tool. The PSAs are intended to educate the public on what WEA is, how to recognize when a message is received, to heed the warning, and take the prescribed protective action in the message. They also direct viewers to learn more about life-saving alerts at Ready.gov/alerts.

The Ready.gov/kids webpage provides information about WEAs and other age appropriate guidance. The IPAWS PMO and Ready.gov also created a WEA Fact Sheet and Word Search for Kids with accompanying instructional materials for parents, teachers and other educators.

Last updated August 6, 2020