IPAWS: Providing Maximum Resident Reach During an Emergency

Written by Whitney Greene

IPAWS is designed to help create and distribute local emergency notifications to your community through all the nation’s available alert and warning channels. 

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Communities across the nation are under, what often feels like, the constant potential for danger from a variety of threats. In 2015 alone the United States saw:

  • 408 fatalities due to severe weather.
  • 1,239 injuries along with more than $4.8 million dollars in weather-related damage.
  • 417 mass shooting events
  • 50,477 million fires burned 4.7 million acres

While these statistics are staggering, we can remain confident that with proper emergency preparation and communications planning, we can keep our communities safe, despite the threat of danger and disaster. Consider these facts:

  • As of May 2020, 988 children have been rescued thanks to AMBERTM Alerts
  • NOAA satellites helped save a record of 421 lives in 2019
  • Thousands of wireless emergency alerts (WEA) have been issued since Congress created the program, and countless lives have been saved, including those of 29 Connecticut children who were led to the safety of a shelter by a camp counselor who received a WEA alert about an upcoming tornado

To maximize the accessibility of such national safety communication systems, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). This powerful tool leverages all available national channels in times of emergency—maximizing the reach of potentially life-saving information. Click here to learn how Blount County, TN leveraged IPAWS to help reunite a wandering dementia patient with his family.


IPAWS is designed to help create and distribute local emergency notifications to your community through all the nation’s available alert and warning channels. IPAWS allows emergency communication managers to disseminate critical news and information through such government emergency notification systems as:

  • The Emergency alert system (EAS), broadcasts to AM/FM radios and public televisions.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are sent to capable wireless devices.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio alerts
  • Local sirens
  • Digital signs
  • Other local and unique systems

Communities that utilize a mass notification system that integrates with IPAWS are best able to amplify their emergency communications and reach as many residents as possible with critical news, updates, and instructions. Click here to watch a recorded webinar and learn more about the life-saving power of FEMA's IPAWS.

Alert Messages Available Through IPAWS

IPAWS allows emergency communication managers to create and distribute appropriate alerts for all types of community emergencies. Alerting authorities can utilize the following types of IPAWS alert messages:

  • Warning messages: Warning messages are issued for those events that alone pose a significant threat to public safety and/or property. Such messages should be used when the probability of occurrence and location is high and the onset time is relatively short.
  • Emergency messages: Emergency messages are issued for those events that by themselves would not kill, injure, or damage property but indirectly may cause other things to happen that result in a hazard.

To further ensure emergency communication managers can quickly and accurately create and distribute informative and actionable alerts, the following national standard event codes may be incorporated into messages sent via EAS, WEA, and the National Weather Service (NWS):

  • AVW: Avalanche Warning
  • CAE: Child Abduction Emergency
  • CDW: Civil Danger Warning
  • CEM: Civil Emergency Message
  • EQW: Earthquake Warning
  • EVI: Evacuation Immediate
  • FRW: Fire Warning
  • HMW: Hazardous Materials Warning
  • LAE: Local Area Emergency
  • LEW: Law Enforcement Warning
  • NUW: Nuclear Power Plant Warning
  • RHW: Radiological Hazard Warning
  • SPW: Shelter in Place Warning
  • VOW: Volcano Warning