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Internet Services, Unique Systems, and Future Systems

This section describes the process for Internet web services and applications to gain access to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) All-Hazards Information Feed, as well as information about the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), an international standard that is used by IPAWS to send public alerts and warnings; CAP allows unique technologies to be integrated with IPAWS. The Future Systems section contains information on new and emerging technologies that can be incorporated with IPAWS to send public alerts and warnings.

Internet Services

In addition to distributing alerts and warnings through radio, TV, mobile devices, NOAA Weather Radios, sirens, reverse 911, and digital road signs, etc., the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) can be used to send alerts and warnings to the public via internet-connected services and systems.

Companies can monitor the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed over an internet connection.  These companies may complete a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) allowing them to access, monitor, and retrieve public alerts in Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format from an IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed. The MOA allows these companies to monitor and distribute public alerts that have been issued through IPAWS.

Several examples of companies with access to the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed include, Facebook, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and The Weather Channel.

The All-Hazards Information Feed supports an interface for public messages and is a simple to implement, PIN-controlled interface that includes messages intended for public consumption (such as EAS and Wireless Emergency Alert messages).

To request access to alerts issued through IPAWS or for a list of companies with access to the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed, email ipaws@fema.dhs.gov.

Unique Systems

State, local, tribal, and territorial alerting authorities may already have a range of unique alerting and dissemination technology at their disposal to alert the public of an emergency. These systems could include, but are not limited to, emergency telephone networks, sirens, or digital road signs.  These unique systems can be upgraded to be compliant with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in order to seamlessly incorporate with IPAWS and make the alert and warning process streamlined and more resilient.

  • Unique Alert Services (UAS) - Unique Alert Services are systems that have permission to retrieve alerts directly from IPAWS and delivers the alerts to their customer base. This system retrieves alerts from IPAWS and delivers appropriate alerts to various pathways such as digital signs, subscription based notifications, emails, reverse 911 systems, websites, or programs based on geographic location and/or type of alert.
  • Assistive Technologies - By using CAP, IPAWS is providing an opportunity to improve emergency alert information delivery to persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. CAP alerts can transport rich multimedia attachments and links in alert messages. The availability of additional content will enable industry partners to develop and provide special content and/or devices ideal for the disability and access and functional needs communities to receive emergency alerts. Assistive technology products can enable people with access and functional needs, their caregivers, and supportive family members to accomplish daily living tasks by assisting in communication, education, work or recreation activities, to help achieve greater independence and enhanced quality of life. For more information about CAP-compliant assistive technologies, please visit the Access and Functional Needs page.
  • Benefits of Upgrading Existing Unique Systems to CAP - CAP is an international technical data specification developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) that allows emergency messages to be disseminated over a wide variety of existing and emerging public alerting systems. In addition to the basic CAP standard, a supplemental IPAWS Profile technical specification was developed to ensure compatibility with existing warning systems used in the U.S. FEMA has formally adopted CAP and the IPAWS Profile to implement IPAWS.
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) participants (broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers) were required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to upgrade their equipment to be capable of receiving CAP-formatted alerts.  However, there is no requirement for state, local, tribal, or territorial alerting authorities to make similar upgrades to their unique alerting systems. By making unique alerting systems CAP-compliant, alerting authorities will be able to send a single alert through IPAWS that will reach their unique alerting systems, radio, television, cell phones and other mobile devices, internet services, and all emerging  CAP-compliant technologies. Using multiple channels for public alerts increases the likelihood that the message will successfully reach the public. In addition, using a single CAP alert message reduces the amount of time required to prepare separate, system-specific alerts, thus speeding the delivery of potentially critical, life-saving information.
  • IPAWS is not mandatory and does not replace existing methods of alerting, but does offer a capability to make alerting more effective, reliable, integrated, and flexible. If your public safety organization is interested in upgrading your unique system(s) to CAP, please refer your system manufacturer or system integrator to the Alert Origination Software Providers section of the website.

Future Systems

IPAWS uses an internationally recognized eXtensible Markup Language (XML) message exchange data standard known as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). Technologies that use CAP and have internet access can be programmed to receive and distribute IPAWS alerts. Although most messages are text only, CAP messages may also include rich multi-media attachments and links in alert messages.

Computer gaming systems, digital signs, siren systems, internet search engines, social sharing websites, and instant messaging are all examples of technologies that are or could use IPAWS to deliver life-saving emergency alerts to the public. Additionally, use of the CAP standard enables industry partners to develop content and/or devices that can be used by individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs to receive emergency alerts. Future alerting technology developers are encouraged to leverage IPAWS in ways that will advance public safety officials’ ability to send alerts and warnings to the American people.

For additional information on CAP and testing with IPAWS, see Alert Origination Software Providers.

Last Updated: 
10/09/2018 - 13:34