Ask Don!

We recently had a tornado devastate our community. We provide CodeRED Weather Warning access to our County residents and received reports that many of our citizens received a weather alert that night even though they were not registered to receive automated weather calls, and we did not activate a CodeRED call at that time. Do you know why this would occur?

Don Hall, ECN's Director of Government Relations
Don Hall, ECN’s Director of Government Relations

A very good question and one we receive a lot of lately. It is very likely that those citizens received a notification that was disseminated by the National Weather Service (NWS) through IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert & Warning System). IPAWS is a Federal Government alerting system that enhances the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS) nationwide. The most recently purchased smartphones are programmed to receive the emergency messages from state, local or federal officials, if they are in or near the targeted hazard area. The functionality within IPAWS that delivers the emergency messages is called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The cellular providers receive the alerts from the IPAWS aggregator and broadcast them through their respective cell towers in and/or near the targeted area. Every wireless device that contains the WEA chip in the range of the towers activated will receive the message. The end user, in most cases, does not know that they have this function on their phone until they receive the first message and begin to investigate.

There are settings within the wireless devices that will allow the end user to select the types of calls they receive from IPAWS. The next time you experience this report from your citizens you may want to have them check their phones for the WEA function and explain IPAWS.

When the NWS declares a storm warning, they will also identify a geographical box for the warning area. The NWS automatically activates the IPAWS system with every storm warning issued now. Through IPAWS that message is provided to EAS Broadcast Stations, NOAA Weather Radios and to WEA to warn all aspects of the public, and the NWS is the only agency allowed to disseminate Weather Warning alerts through IPAWS. CodeRED Weather Warning automatically captures that information from the NWS as well and disseminates it out only to our subscriber data base inside that warning area, however it will state that it is a CodeRED generated call.

State and local government public safety agencies can also use the IPAWS system to deliver emergency “Imminent Threat” messages to their citizens in harm’s way; however, IPAWS is not considered to be a system that should replace the need to have an independent mass notification system in place. IPAWS has very strict requirements for what it can be used for, unlike your localized CodeRED mass notification system.

CodeRED does provide a full service IPAWS Alert Origination Tool for our clients to use to access the system. Our users have the ability to disseminate messages to EAS, WEA, NOAA radios and even communicate COG to COG message with your neighboring approved alerting agencies.

If your CodeRED system is not equipped with IPAWS capability, please contact us at 866-939-0911 for more information on how to get started.

Regards,

Don

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ECN opened up the opportunity for you to connect with Don Hall. Hall has spent more than 40 years in public safety so his emergency management experience makes him ideal for helping our current clients, potential customers and the emergency management community to interact with regarding the need and use of mass notification systems for state and local governments.

This platform was created to make your questions for Hall, heard. If you have anything you would like to ask him please click here to email your question and he will address your question directly, right here in our “Ask Don” blog.