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Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS)

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The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA’s national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System, and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio.

 

Where You Receive Alerts

Emergency Alert System (EAS)

Radio, Television and Cable

Learn about the Emergency Alert System, which sends alerts via radio, TV, and cable.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Mobile Phones

Learn about the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) which sends alerts to your mobile phone.

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR)

Weather Radio

Learn about the Weather and other hazards alerts you receive on your weather radio.

Internet Based Services

Internet-Based Services

Learn about internet-based services and unique alerting systems used to alert the public.

Additional Information on Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

WHAT IS A WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT?

Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA, are sent through the National Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS.  In Limestone County, this is the primary system we use to alert the community of emergencies that are:

  • Urgent – Protective action needs to be taken immediately, or soon (within an hour).
  • Severe – The emergency is causing an extreme or significant threat to life or property.
  • Certain – The incident and danger has to be either observed, meaning someone has seen it occurring, or it is likely, meaning there is a reasonable cause to believe it is more likely than not. 

These messages are sent using the cell carriers towers to alert phones and some other capable devices like sign boards, smart watches, tablets, and other services that communicate with the cell towers.  Most people will receive these alerts using modern WEA capable cell phones.  More devices are being developed that can use the wireless emergency alerts even if they are not a cell phone. 

Depending upon the phone carrier’s network, the message that accompanies an attention-getting tone, may be limited to either 360 characters or 90 characters.  Those receiving an alert are encouraged to tune into broadcast stations that are listed in our EAS pages.

HOW DO I GET ALERTS?

The primary way we use this system is to send the WEAs to modern cell phones.  Many phones can be alerted, and can call out to 9-1-1, even if they do not have active paid service.  In any case, the device needs to be turned on, and communicating with a tower.  Further, the settings for receiving an alert must be turned on.  This is basically how you “sign up” to get these type of alerts.  

GOVERMENT ALERTS

Each model of phone has a different way to turn these alerts on.  We recommend doing an internet search for advice, contact your service provider’s customer service hotline, or visit an authorized dealer’s store for help on how to turn these alerts on.  

When we send out an alert, we define the area that is in danger.  We usually will make the area as big as possible to make sure we alert those who are not only in the area of danger, but also those moving toward it.  Most disasters will result in us alerting the entire county unless it doesn’t make sense to do so.  When your device enters the “danger” area we drew on a map, if you have WEA enabled, it will go off if our alert is not expired.