FEMA IPAWS, NPWS/PEP Emergency Broadcast Studio at WKAQ, San Juan. (FEMA photo)

FEMA Updates Integrated Public Alert & Warning System to Strengthen WEA

The FEMA IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) has updated IPAWS to implement enhancements that will strengthen Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The WEA enhancements improve upon current WEA capabilities already in use by federal, state, local, tribal and territorial emergency management, and public safety officials nationwide. The emergency management/public safety communities and people across the nation will be better served by these new WEA enhancements. Additional enhancements and capabilities:

  • Increasing the maximum character count from 90 to 360;
  • Adding support for Spanish-language WEA;
  • Adding two new alert categories in addition to Presidential, AMBER and Imminent Threat
    • Public Safety Message – Less severe in nature than Imminent Threat
    • WEA Test Message – Opt in message to support state and local WEA testing; and
  • Enhanced geo-targeting reaching 100 percent of the targeted area with no more than 1/10th of a mile overshoot.

These enhancements require more than just the update to IPAWS. They require updates to wireless providers’ nationwide networks and customer phones, and to software that alerting authorities use to send alerts.

The IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) has tested and confirmed that wireless providers can receive enhanced WEA messages from IPAWS, but the nationwide availability for customers to receive enhanced WEA on their phones across all cellular networks will take additional time. The majority of software used by alerting authorities has also been upgraded and tested by the IPAWS PMO. However, not all alerting authorities may be ready to write alerts to fully use all of the enhanced WEA message content over the coming weeks and months.

During the update period, IPAWS will accommodate all versions of WEA to ensure that the public will receive alerts for which their providers and phones are compatible. If you have any questions, please contact the IPAWS PMO at IPAWS@fema.dhs.gov.

During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with life-saving information quickly. IPAWS is a modernization and integration of the nation’s alert and warning infrastructure, and will save time when time matters most, protecting life and property. Watch a video about IPAWS.

IPAWS provides public safety officials with an effective way to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies using the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and other public alerting systems from a single interface. Federal, state, local, tribal and territorial alerting authorities can use IPAWS and integrate local systems that use Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standards with the IPAWS infrastructure. View a list of IPAWS Organizations with Public Alerting Authority Completed in each state.

To learn more about WEA, click here. To view previous webinar recordings, please visit https://femaipawslab.webex.com and choose the “View Event Recordings” link located at on the top right hand side of the page.

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