Alerts & Notifications

IPAWS' Potential Hasn’t Been Exploited

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System offers the ability for virtually any alerting device or system to pick up, then disseminate, alerts. But few have seized the opportunity.

by Rick Wimberly / June 13, 2014

By now, you should know about the new alerting initiatives of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). The Emergency Alert System (EAS) has been digitized and modernized, and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) is creating success stories nationwide for its mobile text alerting. IPAWS is working.

However, there’s an element of IPAWS that has yet to even touch the surface. It’s what FEMA calls “Unique Systems” or “Unique Alert Services.” I bet you haven’t heard of it, but it’s one of the most interesting things IPAWS can do. Basically, it allows virtually any type of system that can be used for alerting to pick up alerts from IPAWS and use whatever method to disseminate them.

The possibilities are quite interesting. Some on my mind:

  • Digital sign systems. Highway departments with big signs could pick up IPAWS alerts for their area. What about signs on campuses? 
  • Alerting systems already in use such as telephone alerting, text alerting and mobile alerting apps. Maybe the IPAWS alerts would trigger other alerts.
  • Devices and systems used by people with disabilities. 
  • Organizations with widespread operations tapping IPAWS, then using their internal systems to send alerts to employees and even customers.
  • Websites. Imagine a banner on your most frequently used websites that scrolls an IPAWS alert when there’s a serious emergency in your area.

I could go on. Few, very few, vendors and organizations (beyond EAS and WEA) have unveiled solutions for picking up, then sending out, IPAWS alerts. To my knowledge, there has been no major deployment. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) This is a shame. I sure would like to hear of existing distribution systems (commercial or otherwise) taking advantage of this opportunity. If you’d like to chat about it, reach out to me at the email address at the top of the page and we’ll schedule a call.

Until this capability is exploited, we’ve failed to take true advantage of the national system of systems for alerting.