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IPAWS Tips

Every month the IPAWS Program Office will distribute a "tip" to emergency managers and software vendors. The tips will cover a wide range of topics, including best practices, recommendations, and current issues. After the tips are sent they will be posted for the public.

Tip 39: IPAWS Alerts – Distribution Pathways and Alert Coverage

The three main alert pathways of IPAWS are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and Non-Weather Emergency Messages (NWEM). Alerting Authorities must understand alert coverage per pathway, especially the use of a polygon or circle to define the area to be alerted.

Tip 38: Imminent Threat vs. Public Safety

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) enhancements of December 2019 included the addition of the Public Safety category to the list of WEA categories (i.e., WEA Handling Codes). There are now four categories of WEA available to Alerting Authorities: Imminent Threat, Public Safety, AMBER (with restriction), and WEA Test. We examine the differences and what alert category should you send.

TIP 37: The New IPAWS Message Viewer

The IPAWS Message Viewer has a new link. The Message Viewer enables Alerting Authorities to confirm successful alert message dissemination to the IPAWS Lab Environment. The Message Viewer can be used during your monthly proficiency demonstration, routine testing and training, or even a full-scale exercise.

TIP 36: The IPAWS Symbol Set

The IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) brings you standardized symbols for every IPAWS Event Code through a joint effort with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Geospatial Management Office, and the DHS Science & Technology Directorate.

TIP 35: Test, Training, and Exercising Your IPAWS Capabilities

The IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO), in collaboration with FEMA’s National Exercise Division (NED), brings you the IPAWS/Public Information and Warning After Action Trend Analysis, the IPAWS Exercise Starter Kit, and Exercise Support from the IPAWS Lab.

TIP 34: Inquiries Regarding the Performance of WEA Geo-targeting

To help address questions about alerts that are delivered to phones more than 1/10th of a mile outside of the target area or phones that do not receive an alert inside the targeted area, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have established points of contact for inquiries from IPAWS authorized Alerting Authorities.

TIP 33: The IPAWS Lab 24/7 Technical Services Support Desk (TSSD)

The IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) is pleased to announce the availability of the IPAWS Technical Services Support Desk (TSSD) 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, including holidays.

TIP 32: Choose Event Codes Carefully

Event Codes define the nature of an event. Emergency management must select an Event Code when sending Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and Non-Weather Emergency Messages (NWEM - future capability) via IPAWS. The IPAWS Office has created the Event Code Descriptions for Use with IPAWS Fact Sheet and offers examples of how Event Codes appear to the public.

TIP 31: Updating and Canceling Alerts

Disasters and emergencies often change, therefore, you might need to update or cancel an alert. IPAWS-Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) provides Alerting Authorities the capability to update and cancel an alert.

TIP 30: Non-Weather Emergency Messages

During 2021, National Weather Service (NWS) offices will implement a new capability allowing Non-Weather Emergency Messages (NWEMs) to be channeled from IPAWS to NWS for broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). This capability is a replacement to the discontinued HazCollect program.

TIP 29: WEA and the Web

IPAWS enables alert originators to embed web addresses – Uniform Resource Locators or URLs – into Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). URLs can link to additional information that normally wouldn’t fit in a WEA such as: more detailed instructions, multimedia, alternate languages, and links to products and services that assist those with disabilities and access and functional needs.

TIP 28: FCC Waivers for Live WEA Testing

WEA Tests differ from actual WEA alerts in order to reduce confusion and minimize any chance that they might be misconstrued as actual alerts. It is still possible to gain FCC permission to send a live alert to the public as a test. However, FCC permission for live tests is not automatic. Using live WEA for tests is reserved for special cases and a strong justification must be presented to the FCC for consideration.

TIP 27: WEA Testing…Which Event Code?

WEA testing allows you to assess the effectiveness of WEAs in your jurisdiction without disrupting the public while gaining confidence and proficiency. We encourage state and local emergency managers to use State/Local WEA Tests for end-to-end WEA testing, using the Required Weekly Test (RWT) event code.

TIP 26: How to Receive WEA Test Alerts on Android & IOS Phones

Most Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)-capable phones can now receive a new WEA Alert Class: WEA Test. Recent models of Android and Apple iOS phones, and those upgraded to newer operating systems will have this setting available. However, these phones ordinarily ship to the customer with the WEA Test setting disabled. The phone user must take specific action to enable it to receive test alerts.

Special Notice Tip: Stay-at-Home vs. Shelter-in-Place as Related to COVID-19

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, some members of the public have expressed confusion related to the use of "Shelter-in-Place" vs. "Stay-at-Home" in public safety messaging. When sending a COVID-19-related message on the Emergency Alert System or as a Wireless Emergency Alert, use the CEM or "Civil Emergency Message" as the event code followed by instructions to the public that are appropriate for your jurisdiction.

TIP 25: Deciding to Send a WEA? Keep in Mind...

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are a powerful tool in your alert and warning toolbox; WEA can reach most people in your jurisdiction, whether they are residents or visitors. Points to consider, both before and after you hit send are: Why mobile phones outside the alert area get a WEA and Why mobile phones didn’t receive a WEA.

TIP 24: COVID-19 When Can You Use IPAWS?

Deciding whether to issue a public alert or warning can be a difficult decision. Ultimately, it is a matter of local judgment. Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic and distribution of public safety information, IPAWS, including WEA and EAS, may be used.

TIP 23: Who Do I Contact to Get IPAWS Support?

If you’re in need of expert help from someone in the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System’s (IPAWS) Program Management Office (PMO), we are always willing to provide the information you need, and/or connect you to the right person.

TIP 22: Reaching Everyone in Your Community

As the message originator, you should keep in mind the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

TIP 21: WEA Enhanced Geo-targeting

WEA enhanced geo-targeting: wireless service providers will be required to deliver an alert message to 100 percent of a targeted area, with no more than 1/10th of a mile or 528 feet overshoot.

Last updated October 18, 2021