IPAWS: Providing Maximum Citizen Reach During an Emergency
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:
- 522 fatalities due to severe weather.
- 2,143 injuries along with more than $4.8 million dollars in weather-related damage.
- 20 reported active shooter incidents.
- 3 million fires that resulted in 3,280 civilian deaths and $14.3 billion in property damage.
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:
- In 2015, 800 children were rescued specifically due to use of the AMBER Alert system, and 25 children were rescued as a result of using wireless emergency alerts (WEA)
- NOAA satellites helped save 250 lives in 2015
- 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.
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), which broadcasts to AM/FM radios and public televisions.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) 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 government emergency notification system that integrates with IPAWS are best able to amplify their emergency communications and reach as many citizens as possible with critical news, updates, and instructions.
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
For more information on IPAWS and how it can effectively help you reach citizens with critical information and instructions during a local emergency, download our CivicReady and IPAWS stat sheet.