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.
IPAWS recognizes the sovereign rights, authority, and unique status of Tribal Governments. We do not require Tribes to get state approval but strongly encourage cross jurisdictional collaboration to avoid over alerting or conflicting information. Please consult our How Tribal Governments Can Sign Up for Public Alerts and Warnings Fact Sheet.
Before beginning the below process, consult with your State IPAWS representative, typically found in the State Emergency Management Agency, for your ability to become an IPAWS alerting authority.
Step #1 – Complete IPAWS Web-Based Training
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers the independent study course, IS-247 Integrated Public Alert and Warning System for Alert Originators.
The goal of the course is to provide authorized public safety officials with:
- Increased awareness of the benefits of using IPAWS for effective alerts and warnings
- Improved skills to draft more appropriate, effective, and accessible alert and warning messages
- Increased understanding of the importance of training, testing and exercising with IPAWS
- Best practices in the effective use of IPAWS to reach members of the public
Once training is completed, submit the IS-247 training certificates to IPAWS.
The course should take approximately two hours to complete and is a prerequisite for full access to IPAWS-OPEN for the purpose of public alerting. FEMA does not provide training on third-party alert origination software. Contact your vendor for any software support questions.
Additionally, EMI offers the optional course, IS-251 Integrated Public Alert and Warning System for Alerting Administrators.
The goal of the course is to provide authorized alerting administrators guidance with:
- Developing effective policies, plans and procedures
- Defining the approval process
- Defining the importance of training, practice and exercising with IPAWS
- Illustrating best practices and effective use of IPAWS to reach members of the public
Step #2 – Select IPAWS Compatible Software
Access to IPAWS is free. To send a message using IPAWS, however, an organization must procure its own IPAWS-compatible software. Software should be successfully tested in the IPAWS Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) test environment and should meet the critical capabilities recommended by FEMA. Consult with your software developer to ensure your system is IPAWS-OPEN compatible and provides the capabilities that your organization requires.
Software Providers and Developers
See our lists of private-sector providers who have executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with IPAWS and have successfully demonstrated their IPAWS capabilities
Step #3 – Apply for a Memorandum of Agreement With FEMA
To become a COG, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) must be executed between the sponsoring organization and FEMA. The MOA governs interoperability and security across emergency response organizations and systems. Each MOA is tailored to the sponsoring organization and their interoperable software system.
To begin the MOA process, please register for an account on the IPAWS User Portal. If you are approved for access by an IPAWS Team Member, you can submit an MOA Application via the portal. Once the complete MOA Application has been received by IPAWS, the Customer Support Branch will prepare the MOA for signature and send it to the sponsoring organization with a COG Identification (ID) number.
Step #4 – Apply for Public Alerting Permissions
Alerting Authorities that intend to send alerts to the public through IPAWS must complete an application defining the types of alerts they intend to issue and the extent of their geographic warning area. The application for IPAWS public alerting authority can be submitted through your IPAWS User Portal.
In order to ensure consistency with state, tribal and territorial public alerting plans, the application must be reviewed and signed by a designated state official or tribal leadership. IPAWS will send your public alerting authority application to the designated state official or tribal leadership. Once approved, all parties will receive a signed copy.
What to Expect
A copy of the executed MOA will be returned to the sponsoring organization along with a digital certificate that is needed to configure the IPAWS compatible software system. By completing steps one through three, the organization will have the capability to exchange messages and content between COGs, but is not yet able to alert the public via IPAWS.
Once the public alerting application is received, specific alerting permissions will be implemented in IPAWS-OPEN. At that point the individual members, specified by the COG, will be able to send public alerts and warnings in their geographically prescribed areas.
Initial functionality includes the ability to access and send alerts through:
- Emergency Alert System (EAS)
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), depending on local implementation by commercial mobile service providers
- NOAA Weather Radio
- Internet-Based Services and Unique Systems