IPAWS Winter 2022 Newsletter

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In This Issue

Monthly Proficiency Demonstrations New Online Resources
Crafting Polygons & Circles Upcoming Events
IPAWS Message Viewer Recent Webinar Recordings
IPAWS in the News New Alerting Authorities
New Snow Squall Alerts

IPAWS Technical Support Services

Monthly Proficiency Demonstrations

IPAWS Alerting Authorities are required to demonstrate monthly that they are maintaining proficiency by sending a practice alert to the Technical Support Services Facility (formerly known as "the IPAWS Lab"). This improves proficiency and better prepares alerting authorities to be ready to use IPAWS to issue live alerts during real-world incidents.

It is important to understand that issuance of a live IPAWS public alert is not a substitute for the required Monthly Proficiency Demonstration. Why? Because the IPAWS Office does not want to encourage training in the IPAWS live environment that could lead to embarrassing errors or much worse. IPAWS monitors monthly activity in the TSSF Test/Demo environment for accountability – not in the IPAWS live environment, which sends alerts to the public.

However, the TSSF offers assisted demonstrations that do account for your monthly requirement. In addition, TSSF staff have developed sample scenario-based situations to make the monthly demonstrations a little more interesting and fun. Please reach out to the TSSF for more information.

Crafting polygons and circles

Many Alerting Authorities have expressed concerns with properly crafting polygons and circles so a Wireless Emergency Alert can be successful.

So, although alert origination software varies, here are some of the best practices for crafting polygons and circles:

  • Double-click when closing a polygon (instead of attempting to connect the coordinates).
  • Ensure the polygon shape encloses the alert area and that a shape's sides do not overlap or cross.
  • Understand that IPAWS supports up to 10 polygons/circles with no more than 100 points per alert (many software vendors perform pre-checks).
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) shape files of county borders frequently exceed the 100-point/message limit. Instead, use simple shapes approximating a complex river or county line.
  • Keep it simple!

IPAWS Message Viewer

The IPAWS Message Viewer is a user interface available only in the TSSF testing environment – not the IPAWS live environment. The Message Viewer enables Alerting Authorities to verify the status of test and demonstration alerts sent to the facility.

These alerts are viewable in Message Viewer for 24 hours to allow alerting authorities to drill down on them and to view alert content, polygons/circles and status codes. An example of the Message Viewer appears below.

You can find the IPAWS Message Viewer at this location, with your COGID added in place of "30xxx":


IPAWS Message Viewer Example

IPAWS In the News

Natural Disasters Require FEMA to Think Outside the Box with Emergency Alert SystemFox Weather

About 30 minutes before an outbreak of tornadoes barreled through more than 200 miles of Kentucky and the mid-South, residents began receiving emergency alerts on their cellphones.

"The typical advanced-warning period is about nine minutes before a tornado actually hits the ground," said Antwane Johnson, director of FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

"In this case, with all of the predictive analysis in the models that the National Weather Service uses, they were able to provide an advance warning 30 minutes ahead of time." The quick communication sent to thousands of mobile devices likely saved lives in what would become a deadly tornado outbreak.

HB 259 – Requiring Use of the Wireless Emergency Alert System

"The Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) is something I am sure you are all familiar with, because you all have received an emergency alert on your phone in an emergency. Like a Tornado Warning or a Flash Flood. It scares you to death when the alarm goes off, as intended so as to get your attention. But apparently, Delaware does not use this system to warn residents of any catastrophic release of chemicals or some other toxic substance, like the Croda Ethylene Oxide release, from any of Delaware’s industrial or power facilities, or from the nuclear power plants nearby in New Jersey or Pennsylvania."

Washington State Representative Proposes New Alert System for Missing Indigenous Women and GirlsCBC News

Washington state Rep. Debra Lekanoff helped propose legislation, House Bill 1725, that would implement an alert system specifically for missing Indigenous people.

The bill was placed on second reading in the Washington State Legislature on Tuesday. If passed, the bill will be the first of its kind in the United States.

Lekanoff likens her proposed system to the Silver Alerts used for missing people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. She said it could deliver details about missing Indigenous women to Washingtonians through news broadcasts, highway alert systems and cellphones. ...

She hopes that a national system could eventually be established throughout the U.S., and that Canada follow, with the two working in tandem.

AMBER Alerts via Wireless Emergency Alerts

IPAWS is proud of the contribution WEA has made to child safety. WEA is part of the AMBER Alert system operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) for the U.S. Department of Justice. To date, NCMEC directly credits WEA with the recovery of 120 abducted children.

New Snow Squall Alerts

The National Weather Service (NWS) defines snow squalls as short, intense bursts of heavy snowfall that lead to quick reductions in visibilities and are often accompanied by gusty winds. NWS has introduced Snow Squall Warnings to help reduce the risk of severe accidents caused by sudden reduced visibility and slippery roads.

Snow Squall WEA

These incidents can be extremely dangerous and lead to multi-vehicle, chain-reaction accidents. Often, snow squalls occur in situations where snowstorms do not appear to be hazardous. They can also occur where there is no major winter storm in progress.

Many Americans are receiving this new type of alert, and asking: What is a snow squall? Here is a NWS graphic explainer:

Snow Squall explainer

New Online Resources

Check the IPAWS TSSF Resource Central and FEMA Preparedness Community frequently for guidance materials. Here are some of the newest:

Including IPAWS in Drills, Workshops, and Exercises (PDF)

The IPAWS Office, in collaboration with FEMA’s National Exercise Division supports Alerting Authority participation in drills, workshops, and exercises. This Fact Sheet offers guidance on how you can use IPAWS during exercises and how we can help.

Conducting Wireless Emergency Alert Tests (PDF)

Alerting Authorities may perform LIVE Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) tests by using the Required Weekly Test (RWT) event code. Live tests enable Alerting Authorities to assess effectiveness of WEA within their jurisdictions without impacting the public.

Wireless Emergency Alert Capabilities by Cellular Handset and Wireless Provider (PDF)

This guidance explains the different WEA versions and provide links to some wireless provider websites that list WEA capabilities by manufacturer make and model.

A Guide for Alerts and Warnings Social Media Tool Kit

To help emergency managers share information about alerts and protective actions, FEMA created a suite of alert and warning graphics. Download the graphics, add your logo, and use the recommended captions and alt text to teach your communities about hazard alerts and warnings.

Guide for Alerts & Warnings (PDF)

Your phone suddenly displays an alert about an imminent hazard. Do you know what to do, and how to protect yourself, your family and your pets? To help you learn how to respond to emergency alerts, FEMA created this guide, which also helps emergency managers share important information about hazard alerts and protective actions.

A magnetic-strip version of the guide is available from FEMA's publications warehouse. The warehouse ships free preparedness products at no cost and can accommodate individual and group orders. An example graphic from this guide appears below.

Flash Flood Warning from FEMA Guide

Upcoming Events

37th Annual California State University, Northridge Assistive Technology Conference, Anaheim, California: March 14-18, 2022. The IPAWS team will attend to promote adoption of the IPAWS All-Hazards Information Feed. The future of alert and warning is ubiquitous alerting and there will be several options to interface with IPAWS.

National Radiological Emergency Preparedness Conference, Nashville, Tennessee: April 11-14, 2022. IPAWS will present to engage with emergency management professionals, discuss how to effectively use public alerts during an emergency, and provide updates and training to current Alerting Authorities.

National Hurricane Conference, Orlando, Florida: April 11-14, 2022. FEMA will encourage the use of IPAWS during hurricane response and recovery.

Recent IPAWS Webinar Recordings

September 2021 Vendor Demos: Regroup  / On-the-Go Alerting / SM Infinity

November 2021 Vendor Demos: Alertus & Juvare WebEOC

December 2021: Non-Weather Emergency Messages recording / slides

Blue Ribbon

Welcoming New IPAWS Alerting Authorities

These jurisdictions recently completed IPAWS Memoranda of Agreement.
The process for signing up is outlined on the IPAWS website at this link.

AR Arkansas County NE Region 26 EM
AR City of Fayetteville NM Dona Ana County
CA Azusa Police Dept. NV Nevada DPS
CA City of Santa Monica Office of EM NY County of Ulster
CA San Francisco Presidio Trust OH Allen County HSEM
DE City of Wilmington OH Lake County EM Agency
DE Kent County DPS OH Marion County Office of EM&HS
DE Sussex County Emergency Opns OH Montgomery County Sheriff's Office
FL Glades County EM OH Ohio Dept. of Transportation
FL Martin County Fire Rescue OK Love County
IA Franklin County EM OR City of Prineville
IA Hardin County EM OR Curry County Sheriff's Office
IL Williamson County EMA OR Grant County
IN Jay County EM Agency OR Washington County
IN Noble County EM Agency SC Colleton County Fire - Rescue
KS Douglas County EM TN Washington County Johnson City EM
KS Seward County EM TX Bastrop County
MA Town of Uxbridge TX City of Deer Park
MI Grosse Pointe Park DPS TX City of Galveston EM
MI Presque Isle County OEMHS TX City of Richardson
MI Saginaw County Office of EM TX Levelland-Hockley County
MO City of Independence TX Texas Dept. of Transportation
MS Jones County EM District Council TX Victoria County
MT Richland County UT Millard County Sheriff's Office
NC Pasquotank-Camden EM VA City of Virginia Beach OEM
ND Logan County WA Adams County EM
NE Polk County Sheriff's Office WA Pend Oreille County Dept. of EM


IPAWS 24/7 Technical Support Services: 1-84-IPAWSLAB / 1-844-729-7522