Critical Communications, IPAWS

Blue Alert: How Law Enforcement can Increase Officer Safety

By Aaron Kuhn

FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) now includes a new event code called Law Enforcement Blue Alert, or ‘Blue Alert’. 

The new BLU event code is available for selection with the IPAWS Emergency Alert System (EAS), with future plans to release it to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

The ‘Blue Alert’ provides officials with the ability to alert the public when a law enforcement officer has been injured, killed or is missing. The alert will push real-time information to the public, like the location of the incident and any identifying information – such as suspect or vehicle description – to help locate possible suspects.

Blue Alerts will be transmitted to television and radio stations with EAS and later to cellphones and wireless devices with WEA. Similar to current Amber Alerts for missing children, Blue Alerts enable agencies to rapidly disseminate information to other law enforcement agencies, the public and media outlets.

Did you know?

IPAWS was created to help protect members of the community as well as to provide protection for valuable property. The system allows vetted government officials to warn the public through one centralized IPAWS-compliant interface, like CodeRED from OnSolve. Read more about what IPAWS is and when to you is in our blog: Keeping Residents Informed: An Emergency Manager’s Guide to IPAWS alerting

According to the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) Blue Alert activation criteria consists of:

Blue Alerts may be issued in any of the following circumstances, provided there is actionable information known about a suspect (e.g., name, physical description, or vehicle description):

  • When a law enforcement officer is killed or seriously injured in the line of duty
  • When an officer is missing in connection with official duties
  • When there is an imminent and credible threat to kill or seriously injure a law enforcement officer

CodeRED with IPAWS

In early 2011, OnSolve personnel worked closely with the FEMA System’s Architect on IPAWS, providing the first interface that could successfully post messages to IPAWS. Since then, OnSolve has continually invested in improving and enhancing the CodeRED with IPAWS interface to meet FEMA requirements and maintain best practices. As of early 2019, CodeRED with IPAWS alerting authorities are able to activate the Blue Alert event code for EAS. In addition, on May 1, 2019 FEMA will be releasing a new set of expectations for IPAWS software providers. OnSolve personnel are currently working to ensure CodeRED with IPAWS will be fully compliant. This will include enhancements such as:

  • WEA 360-character message capability
  • Secondary language messages for EAS and WEA (90 and 360)
  • Two new Alert Types to include “Public Safety Message” and “WEA Test”
  • And more

Interested in more information about IPAWS?

IPAWS provides agencies with powerful tools to keep their residents informed and safe. Understanding the system, including its components and capabilities, can help agencies like yours make significant improvements to their public safety programs.