IS-0248 Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) for the American Public

Overview

The integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program Management Office designed this course to provide the American Public with an introduction to IPAWS. It identifies the key features and benefits of IPAWS and the authorities responsible for sending alert and warning messages.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify the key features and benefits of IPAWS
  • Describe the actions to take before, during and after an emergency to protect yourself and your loved ones

Introducing IPAWS

Max is the facilitator and the following conversation occurs in Max’s office. Max says:
Hi, my name is Max. Today I will introduce you to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS for short. We all know that communication is the center of our way of life today…We use computers, laptops, small computer pads, cell phones, and other tools such as social networking to keep in touch with family, friends and business associates.

Did you know that today’s technology can now send you emergency alerts, including Wireless Emergency Alerts, to warn you about disasters or other emergencies? These public alerts and warnings are sent through IPAWS.

If you’ve never heard of IPAWS, you’re probably wondering: What is it? How does IPAWS impact me? And why should I care? IPAWS is the latest alert and warning system that could save your life or the lives of your loved ones. In this session, I will be answering these questions and more. Let’s learn more about IPAWS…

The television in the room is turned on and the following transcript is associated with the video shown:
“When disasters strike, whether they are natural, accidental, or man-made…it has always been vital that they be reported accurately and in a timely fashion to those who may be in danger.

It is the policy of the United States to have an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people.

Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS, is the solution for effective public alerts and warnings.

When disaster strikes, IPAWS allows emergency managers and alerting authorities at all levels to send one message…to more people through multiple pathways, to save lives and protect property.

No matter where you are—at home, at school, at work, or even on vacation—you can get life-saving alerts. IPAWS…Emergency Alerts at the Speed of Life. Get alerts…Stay alive.”

Max says:
Now, let’s go to Jodie’s living room to learn more about IPAWS.

IPAWS in Action—the Living Room

Jodie and Kathryn are friends, and the following conversation occurs in Jodie’s living room.
Jodie says:

Hey Kathryn, did you know that it’s possible to receive emergency alerts and warnings on your cell phone that could save your life?

Kathryn says:
Wow! What is it called?

Jodie says:
I think it’s called Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEAs. WEAs are just one of the many alert and warning systems within IPAWS. Let me check it on my tablet computer—here it is!

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says:
Let’s view a screenshot of the website by selecting the tablet PC in Jodie’s hand. Once you are done viewing it, you can click on the little X in the top right corner to close it.

The tablet PC in Jodie’s hand is now highlighted. Selecting it displays a screenshot of the IPAWS program website. The following URL is prominently shown: www.fema.gov/ipaws. After the screenshot of the IPAWS website is closed, the conversation between Kathryn and Jodie continues. Kathryn says:

Oh, I get it. IPAWS allows public safety officials to send alerts and warnings through TV, Radios, cell phones and other communication devices. “Sound of Wireless Emergency Alert Ringtone”.
And look, I just received a Wireless Emergency Alert, or WEA, on my cell phone.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says:
Let’s view the Wireless Emergency Alert or WEA by selecting Kathryn’s cell phone.

The cell phone placed on the table in front of Kathryn is highlighted—selecting it displays a sample flash flood Wireless Emergency Alert: “Flash Flood Warning in effect until 3:05pm. Check local media for additional information.”

Kathryn says: 
Let’s turn on the TV to find out more about the flash flooding.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says: 
Select the TV to learn more.

The TV is highlighted, and selecting it displays a non-alert screen when turned on – the scene changes to the picture of flooding in the background, with the following emergency alert message ribbon: (EAS Initiation Tones play) “The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for the counties of: Jefferson, Monroe, and Harrison. Take protective action. This Flash Flood Warning is in effect until 3:05 pm.” (EAS End Tones play)

Jodie says:
Wow…that is extremely useful and convenient! If we can get Wireless Emergency Alerts on our cell phones, we will always be connected! Let’s check the IPAWS program website for more information on WEAs.

Benefits of IPAWS

The scene zooms back to Max’s office. Max says:
It’s back to me now! So…did you learn anything about IPAWS from Jodie and Kathryn’s conversation? I’m sure you did!

In addition to the key features Kathryn talked about, I wanted to share some other benefits of IPAWS with you:

  • First, IPAWS enables public safety officials to use a wide variety of communication technologies to send emergency alerts and warnings, increasing the likelihood that you will receive the message from at least one of them. For example, radio, television, the Internet, wireless devices, sirens, electronic road signs, and other emerging technologies can be used to disseminate emergency alerts.
  • Second, by including new technologies, IPAWS helps to ensure that the emergency alerts you receive are relevant to the area in which you are located.
  • Third, through the use of new technologies, IPAWS allows public safety officials to send life-saving alerts to all Americans, including those with disabilities and those without an understanding of the English language.
  • Finally, IPAWS not only delivers National Weather Service and state and local alerts and warnings, but also allows the President of the United States to address the American people in the event of a national emergency.

Isn’t it amazing that so many pathways can be used to disseminate emergency alerts? In fact, last night, I received a Wireless Emergency Alert from the National Weather Service on my cell phone.

Nancy, my neighbor, is legally blind, and lives with Tom, her husband. I wonder if they received the same warning I received.

IPAWS in Action—At Night

The scene zooms to Nancy and Tom’s room, where tornado sirens have just gone off in their neighborhood with the following announcement: “Tornado Warning. Find shelter immediately. Tornado Warning. Find shelter immediately.” Nancy says: 
Tom, I just heard an outdoor siren and our NOAA Weather Radio has also started beeping and announced a Tornado warning. Let me check what the NOAA Weather Radio just announced.

Tom says:
Let’s see what they are saying on the TV.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says:
Select the NOAA Weather Radio and then the TV to learn more.

The NOAA Weather Radio is highlighted. When selected, it plays the following message: “The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for the city of Fillmore. Take protective action and find shelter immediately. This Tornado Warning is in effect until 1:45am.”

The TV is then highlighted with a news reporter in foreground and photo of an approaching tornado in the background. Upon selection, the following emergency message alert ribbon is displayed: “(EAS Initiation Tones play) “The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for the city of Fillmore. Take protective action and find shelter immediately. This Tornado Warning is in effect until 1:45am.” (EAS End Tones play)”

Tom says: 
Let’s follow our emergency preparedness plan and move to the basement immediately.

After the tornado has passed, Nancy’s face pops up in an orange rimmed circle. Nancy says:
Thanks to my public safety officials who used IPAWS, we were notified of the emergency in time. I also appreciate that IPAWS is accessible to people with low vision.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says:
The best strategies for ensuring personal safety and well-being include creating personal and family emergency plans and routinely practicing your plan.

IPAWS in Action—On the Road

The scene transitions to Justin and Wen driving to work on a highway. Justin says:
Traffic is really light today. We got lucky!

Wen says: 
Yeah, we will reach the office early today. It does look like it will rain, though.

Justin says:
Hmm…let’s hope not! Hey, what’s that alert sign in front of us saying?

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the car. Max says:
Select the alert sign to view the warning.

Alert sign on road is highlighted. Selecting it displays the following warning: “FLASH FLOOD WARNING. DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH WATER. CHECK LOCAL MEDIA FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.”

“Sound of Wireless Emergency Alert Ringtone.”

Wen says:
That’s serious! Hang on…I just received a Wireless Emergency Alert on my cell phone…it has confirmed the flash flood warning and is instructing us to check our local media for more information.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the car. Max says:
If you would like to view the alert, select the cell phone to view it.

Cell phone in Wen’s hand is highlighted; selecting it displays the Wireless Emergency Alert: “Flash Flood Warning in effect until 3:05pm. Check local media for additional information.”

Justin says:
This is important information! I’ll turn on the radio. Let’s listen to what the local radio station is saying about this incident.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the car. Max says:
Select the radio console to learn more.

Radio console in the center of the dashboard is highlighted; selecting it plays an audio warning about the emergency: “The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for the counties of: Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and Jackson, and particularly the Polk River and Interstate 44. Do NOT drive through water. People moving westbound on Interstate 44 should find the nearest exit and head eastward. Those near the Polk River should seek higher ground immediately. This Flash Flood Warning is in effect until 3:05 pm.”

Justin says:
I’m taking the next exit and we’re going back home. Better safe than sorry! Thanks to public safety officials who used IPAWS, we received the warning in time! I am wondering if they received the warning in my son’s school, which is close to the river too.

IPAWS in Action—the Classroom

The scene transitions to the school classroom. When the screen loads, the emergency siren can be heard. The teacher says (and simultaneously, the interpreter on screen, using sign language): 
Students, the emergency siren has gone off. We will now be leaving the room in an orderly fashion. Students in the first row on my right will leave first, then the students in the second row, and then those in the third and fourth rows.

A clickable scrolling bar, with scrolling text: “ALERT: FLASH FLOOD WARNING. EVACUATE THE BUILDING. SEEK HIGHER GROUND.”

The teacher says:
Thanks to my public safety officials who used IPAWS, we received an early warning about the flash flooding and were able to move the students to higher ground. My brother was attending a soccer game downtown and the stadium is right by the harbor. I tried to call him, but the cellular network is busy. I’m worried whether he received the message.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the room. Max says:
Sometimes, during an emergency, networks become congested and it is difficult for individuals to send or receive calls or texts. However, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not affected by network congestion.

IPAWS in Action—the Sport Stadium

The scene transitions to a crowded soccer stadium. Craig says: 
Wow, this game has really got me on the edge of my seat!

Andy says: 
Yeah, it has been really exciting. Hey, I just received a Wireless Emergency Alert warning about possible flash flooding in this area. Did you get this message too?

Craig says: 
Let me check. Yeah, I got it too! I wonder whether Bob received it. Hey Bob, did you get an emergency alert on your cell phone?

“Sound of Wireless Emergency Alert Ringtone.”

Bob says: 
Yeah, I just heard a beeping noise on my cell phone. I got the alert about possible flash flooding.

Max’s face pops up in a corner in the stadium. Max says:
Let’s view the alert by selecting Bob’s cell phone.

Bob’s cell phone is highlighted; when selected it displays the WEA: “Flash Flood Warning in effect until 3:05pm. Check local media for additional information.”

Andy says: 
Thanks to public safety officials who used IPAWS, we are now more informed about imminent threats in our area. This knowledge allows us to take proper action in response, which will save lives!

Alert Issuing Authorities and Emergencies

The scene transitions back to Max’s office. Max says:
Welcome back! As you saw in the previous scenes, emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. In fact, Wireless Emergency Alerts can reach individuals even if the cellular networks are busy. IPAWS makes it possible for public safety officials to warn those in danger.

One question that may have occurred to you is: Who sends the IPAWS alerts? How do I know that these alerts are credible?

That’s a valid and important question. Only authorized alerting authorities can issue emergency alerts using IPAWS. Select the folder sitting on my desk to view the list of authorities who can send alerts.

The purple folder on Max’s desk is highlighted. When selected, it displays the text below in a pop-up window.

Alert Issuing Authorities

  • Most emergency alerts are issued by the National Weather Service for severe weather events.
  • State, local, territorial, and tribal public safety officials who responsible for communicating emergency alerts and warnings to the public can also issue emergency alerts. For example, if there is a chemical spill or a missing child, state or local safety officials will issue emergency alerts.
  • Finally, the President of the United States can also use IPAWS in the event of a national emergency.

Max says:
Until now, we learned about the IPAWS system and emergency alerts. Another very important thing to learn is what actions you can take before and during an emergency to protect yourself and your loved ones.

So, what do you need to do before and during an emergency? Select the notepad on my desk to view some important, helpful tips from FEMA.

The white colored notepad on Max’s desk is highlighted. Selecting it displays the text below in a pop-up window.

  • Before an emergency:
    • Visit FEMA’s www.ready.gov website for guidelines on the four steps to personal emergency preparedness: Be Informed, Make a Plan, Build a Kit, and Get Involved.
    • Contact your cellular service provider to find out whether your cell phone model is compatible with receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts.
  • During an emergency:
    • Respond appropriately to instructions provided by safety officials.
    • If needed, seek additional information from local media such as radio or television.
    • Do not call 9-1-1 unless you have an immediate, personal emergency.
    • Avoid overloading cellular networks.
    • Assist others if you are in a position to do so.

IPAWS Resources and WEA FAQs

Max says:
We covered a lot of information on IPAWS in this session. I’m sure you found this information helpful!

There are some additional resources available that can provide you with more information on IPAWS and preparing for emergencies. The IPAWS website has a lot of very useful information about public alerts and warnings for all Americans, including those with access and functional needs. On the Notice Board behind me, select the notice titled More Information for information on additional resources.

The notice titled More Information on the Notice Board is highlighted. Selecting it displays the following text in a pop-up window.

Max says: 
If you would like to get more information on receiving emergency alerts on your cell phone, select the notice titled Wireless Emergency Alerts Frequently Asked Questions.

The notice titled Wireless Emergency Alerts Frequently Asked Questions on Notice Board is highlighted. Selecting it launches a PDF with the FAQs content.

Max says: 
You will now have the opportunity to complete a few of Knowledge Review questions. Don’t worry, these are not graded!

Close