National Continuity Programs-IPAWS Wireless Emergency Alerts Save Children’s Lives

Main Content

Did you know that FEMA has been at the center of developing alert and warning technology that has resulted in saving the lives of missing children?  Most modern cell phones now have the technology to receive free alerts and warnings known as Wireless Emergency Alerts or WEAs that can warn the public about severe weather, as well as AMBER Alerts about missing children and other threats to public safety. 

FEMA’s National Continuity Programs Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Staff has been working since 2006 to develop the technology known as IPAWS to help authorities deliver alert and warning messages through a single portal to multiple communication pathways at the same time.  IPAWS, a modernization and integration of the nation’s alert and warning infrastructure, saves time when time matters to protect life and property.

Since December 2012, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has used the IPAWS system to send Wireless Emergency Alerts to disseminate AMBER Alerts throughout the country, resulting in the recovery of many missing children.

On Sept. 10, 2013, FEMA Administrator Craig W. Fugate visited the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children where the NCMEC Chief Executive Officer presented the Administrator with an award to recognize the tremendous support the National Continuity Programs Directorate’s IPAWS Program Management Office provided to assist in the recovery of missing children. 

Wireless Emergency Alerts are one of many examples of how IPAWS incorporates existing and future technology to provide public safety officials at all levels of government with effective communications options for reaching the American people.  WEAs are text-like messages consisting of critical, life-saving information designed for broadcast to WEA-enabled mobile devices within geo-targeted areas incorporating unique tones and vibrations. 

In addition to NCMEC, state, territorial, tribal and local public safety officials rely on the WEA system to issue AMBER Alerts. 

The National Weather Service and the President can also use WEAs to warn the public of imminent danger and national emergencies.

Losses to home and property can be reduced, if people are alerted in advance, or receive notification of what they should do in response to an impending threat.  When armed with such knowledge, people are able to take appropriate action to relocate out of harm’s way, to reduce loss, minimize uncertainty, and speed recovery.  So check with your wireless carrier to see if your mobile device is WEA-enabled. The next time you receive a WEA on your mobile device, pay attention; it just may be an alert that can save your life or the life of a child! 

The NCP IPAWS team members working WEA are Antwane Johnson, Wade Witmer, Mark Lucero, Charles McCobb, Neil Graves, and Lauren Cisek.

For testimonials, visit the following links to see examples of news stories on AMBER Alerts:


Posted Sep. 5, 2013 08:49AM Updated Sep 05, 2013 4:58 PM


Good Samaritans Go After Amber Alert Suspect Posted: on 6:08 pm, July 1, 2013 by Mark Zinni

3.  http:/my/

For more information on Wireless Emergency Alerts visit:

“Wireless Emergency Alerts” 30 second English PSA (closed captioning):

“Wireless Emergency Alerts” 30 second Spanish PSA (closed captioning):

Follow FEMA on twitter at:   or receive preparedness tips by texting PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) msg/data rates apply

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
Back to Top