The concept of using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is gradually growing amongst state and local jurisdictions across the U.S. after a slow start. Now that IPAWS has a few years under its belt and many success stories attributed to its use, public safety officials are getting a better sense of just how effective this tool can be. The applications for Collaborative Operating Group (COG) approvals are increasing, and some states are reaching a participation rate of 80-90% from their county emergency management agencies in becoming IPAWS Alerting Authorities.
Even with such promising results, many public safety officials are still unclear about how effective IPAWS can be when used in combination with their existing mass notification systems. There is uncertainty about what constitutes an imminent threat for a Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) alert and several other questions about the way IPAWS works.
The CodeRED for IPAWS Tool is a very comprehensive alerting feature, providing for all five avenues of dissemination through IPAWS: the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), Non-Weather Emergency Messages (NWEM), COG to COG, and public alert feeds. To add to its uniqueness, IPAWS alerts sent through CodeRED can be created and launched simultaneously with other alerts without the need to log into a completely separate application.
In addition, CodeRED provides users with access to the IPAWS Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) Test Environment, which allows unlimited testing of IPAWS for the COGs. This is a great opportunity to conduct IPAWS training and encourage system familiarity to end users in a way that is typically unavailable for other public alerting platforms. We encourage every IPAWS COG to request the JITC Test credentials from FEMA.
In an effort to continue to grow adoption rates and further test the IPAWS system, the FEMA IPAWS Division recently conducted a national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in 16 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. Broadcasters in those states voluntarily participated in the test. The test message was launched by FEMA using the National Periodic Test event code (NPT), which allowed organizers to test the nationwide alerting capabilities from Washington D.C. The NPT test was successful in the states that participated.
ECN is partnering with FEMA to continue spreading the word about IPAWS and help our clients better understand its value and capabilities. Each month, we conduct an IPAWS webinar that covers general information on the tool and includes a demonstration of our CodeRED for IPAWS Alert Origination tool. To attend this webinar, please register here for the date and time of your choice. You can also request a private IPAWS demonstration by emailing Don Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that FEMA also provides periodic informational webinars on IPAWS including videos, FAQs, and other helpful content. Visit their website at www.fema.gov/ipaws for more information.