alert - warning

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Frequently Asked Questions About IPAWS

Find answers to frequently asked questions about IPAWS and other alert systems from alerting authorities and alert originators.

Questions About Alerting Systems

Questions About Using IPAWS

Questions About IPAWS TSSF

Alerting Systems

What is IPAWS?

IPAWS provides public safety officials with an effective way to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies using the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, and other public alerting systems from a single interface.

What is EAS?

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to supply the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. EAS is also used by the National Weather Service to relay weather-related warnings. EAS may also be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information about other types of hazardous situations.

What is CAP?

The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is an XML-based data format standard for exchanging public warnings between alerting technologies. CAP allows a warning message to be sent simultaneously over many warning systems to many different outlets (such as radio, television, cell phones, Internet).

What is an “alerting authority?”

Public officials are granted the authority to alert the public of emergency situations through Federal, State, and local laws. Specific authorities may be designated in state Emergency Alert System or AMBER Alert plans.

What is a COG?

A Collaborating Operating Group or “COG” is a term used by IPAWS to designate an organization that is responsible for emergency alerting. A COG is established with IPAWS when a Federal, State, local, or tribal alerting authority executes an MOA with FEMA in order to use IPAWS.

Using IPAWS

What are the benefits of using IPAWS?

IPAWS automates and streamlines the process of issuing public alerts. Using IPAWS, COGs are able to send an alert to multiple dissemination channels, such as the Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, NOAA Weather Radio, the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed and other dissemination channels simultaneously. IPAWS also enables the exchange of private messages between COGs who need to communicate about an emergency.

Does IPAWS replace the systems I already have in place?

The use of IPAWS is optional, and may supplement your existing systems; however, IPAWS is the only means of accessing WEA to disseminate warnings to cellular telephones.

What technology do I need to have in order to send messages through IPAWS?

You need to have computer software that can create IPAWS- compliant messages. These tools are available from a variety of private companies (costs vary based on licenses, features etc). You also need a reliable Internet connection.

What type of grants or funding assistance can FEMA provide to help purchase or acquire IPAWS compliant equipment?

For grants guidance, reference the FEMA Preparedness Grants Manual 2020.

How do I sign up to participate in IPAWS?

Federal and SLTT authorities can access IPAWS to issue critical public alerts.

To access IPAWS, you must become an Alerting Authority. It is a simple, four-step process:

  1. Complete IPAWS web-based training
  2. Select an IPAWS-compatible alerting software
  3. Apply for a Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA
  4. Apply for public alerting permissions

Available resources: Sign Up to Use IPAWS to Send Public Alerts and Warnings

IPAWS Technical Support Services Facility (TSSF)

What is the IPAWS TSSF?

The IPAWS TSSF is an offline version of IPAWS. The lab is a valuable resource to Alerting Authorities because it mimics live environment capabilities but is a closed/safe network to train, test and exercise.

Available resources:

How do I access the IPAWS TSSF?

There are three ways to access the IPAWS TSSF:

  1. On-site testing (a visit to the Lab)
  2. Off-site testing (via webinar)
  3. Independent testing using the IPAWS Message Viewer

Who uses the IPAWS TSSF?

Alerting Authorities with an active Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA’s IPAWS office.

What can my organization do in the IPAWS TSSF?

  • Understand IPAWS capabilities and functionalities
  • Create an IPAWS alert
  • Validate alert dissemination

What are the benefits of testing in the IPAWS TSSF?

  • Hands-on use or observation of software capabilities
  • Craft IPAWS messages
  • Validate IPAWS message dissemination
  • Troubleshoot, if necessary
  • Ability to Q&A with FEMA staff

How do I test with the IPAWS TSSF?

  1. In person (on-site)
  2. Virtual: Watch FEMA's webinar, “Practice and Train with the IPAWS TSSF,” or visit our webpage to learn more online.
  3. Independent Testing
  4. Utilize Program Checklist

How often should I test?

It is required to test once a month in the IPAWS TSSF.