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.
Roles and responsibilities of an Alerting Authority differ among agencies. An Alert Originator is an individual person at the keyboard/screen composing and issuing the alert. The Alert Originator utilizes IPAWS in accordance with the Alerting Authority’s plans, policies and procedures to create and send out emergency messages.
FEMA created IPAWS in 2006 in response to Executive Order 13407, and today, there are more than 1,500 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial alerting authorities using IPAWS to issue critical public alerts and warnings in their jurisdictions.
Using IPAWS allows alerting authorities to deliver alerts simultaneously through multiple communication pathways to reach as many people as possible. IPAWS does not replace existing alerting methods. Rather, it complements them and offers additional capabilities.
There is no cost to send messages through IPAWS; however, there may be costs to acquire compatible alert origination software that meets IPAWS requirements.
IPAWS, and its associated delivery pathways, is a valuable tool that allows alerting authorities to serve their jurisdictions during an emergency. Deciding whether to issue a public alert or warning can be difficult. Ultimately, it is a matter of local judgment.
Sign Up for IPAWS to Send Alerts and Warnings
Federal agencies and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments are eligible to send alerts using IPAWS. Other public or private sector organizations may also be eligible depending on their public safety mission.
Resources for Alerting Authorities
Proficiency Demonstration Messages
The Mandatory Monthly Proficiency Demonstration Requirement, along with other IPAWS Program Management Office initiatives, are being implemented to increase IPAWS user proficiency and reduce alerting errors. Each enabled alerting authority operating under an IPAWS agreement must demonstrate their ability to compose and send a message through the IPAWS-OPEN system at regular intervals. Such demonstration must be performed monthly through generation of a successful message sent through the IPAWS-OPEN Training and Demonstration environment (IPAWS Lab Cloud).
Below is guidance on sending controlled test messages via alert originating software to the IPAWS Lab Cloud.
- Alerting Authorities, otherwise known as Collaborative Operating Groups (COGs) may conduct their Proficiency Demonstration at their own discretion any date/time within a calendar month.
- The message must be for EAS and/or WEA, depending on your COG’s approved alerting permissions. If a COG is approved for both channels (EAS/WEA), then both channels must be tested simultaneously if your alert origination software provides the capability.
- The Demo message status must be set to “Actual” status. The Use of “Test” or “Exercise” status will result in the message not posting to the simulated WEA and EAS feeds in the IPAWS Lab and will not be counted as a successful Demo.
- The Proficiency Demonstration message (EAS Description/WEA message text) shall be as follows: “TEST TEST TEST. This is a Proficiency Demonstration Test Message. No action is required.”
- COGs may use any approved event code for the Demo message. Neither additional message content nor the use of a geotargeting polygon will be evaluated. (It is not necessary nor recommended that COGs use the RMT – “Required Monthly Test” event code as that is specific to broadcast and cable EAS.)
- The IPAWS Message Viewer can provide alert originators with confirmation of a successful demo message, if used within 24 hours of sending a Demo message.
- Live messages sent to the production environment WILL NOT be considered for Monthly Proficiency Demonstration scoring.
- If a COG misses a single Monthly Proficiency Demo they will receive a reminder from FEMA.
- If a COG misses two consecutive Monthly Proficiency Demos both they and their state IPAWS Reviewing Authority will be notified.
- If a COG misses THREE CONSECUTIVE Monthly Proficiency Demos they will LOSE ACCESS to the IPAWS Live Production Environment and not be able to use IPAWS for public alerting until such a time as they complete a successful Monthly Proficiency Demo.
Existing Alerting Authorities
See which alerting authorities are approved to use IPAWS in your area.
Alerting Authorities Lists: In Progress & Complete
Alerting authorities can access IPAWS' various messaging systems.
- Emergency Alert System (EAS)
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs)
- National Weather Service Dissemination Systems
- Unique and Future Systems
IPAWS also enables the interoperable exchange of messages between government organizations to enhance situational awareness and collaboration. Government organizations choose incident management software that best fits their needs and can exchange messages with other IPAWS alerting authorities, as long as each software system is compatible with IPAWS, and each organization has established an IPAWS account.
FEMA's Emergency Management Institute offers free, online independent study courses to alerting authority administrators and public safety officials.
The 2020 IPAWS Program Planning Toolkit includes the IPAWS Lab Fact Sheet, the IPAWS FAQ Fact Sheet and the IPAWS Train the Trainer Guide. The 2016 IPAWS Toolkit for Alerting Authorities is also available. These documents provide public safety officials with resources to ensure that communities understand how to access, use, and respond to public alerts and warnings.