FEMA plans to inventory emergency systems

An agency of the Homeland Security Department is preparing to inventory the country’s federal, state and local government emergency warning systems more than two years after President Bush ordered the assessment as part of a program to integrate the country's alert systems.

As part of its effort to build the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a part of DHS,  hopes to soon begin collecting information on the warning systems of almost 2,000 jurisdictions around the country. Although FEMA began running IPAWS pilots after the president ordered the nationwide integrated network in June 2006, the agency still has not undertaken the nationwide survey of electronic alert systems.

A FEMA spokeswoman said today the delay in starting the survey was the result of a long process in getting clearance from Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act to perform the nationwide survey. An abstract of FEMA’s planned collection was published in today’s Federal Register for OMB's  review.

Officials said IPAWS will be an improvement to the current emergency alert system which relies on radio and TV audio transmissions. IPAWS will make use of mobile media such as cell phone, pagers, computers and other personal communications devices to warn citizens.

Ken Murphy, president of the National Emergency Management Association, which represents state emergency management directors, said his colleagues would have like to have seen the system implemented a long time ago. However,  Murphy said he didn’t think the delay was due to FEMA’s lack of effort.

Officials say they will use IPAWS to send alerts via audio, video or text in multiple languages, including American Sign Language and Braille and FEMA has called IPAWS the “Nation's next-generation public communications and warning capability.”

“We all truly do desire a system – and hopefully IPAWS is it – to really integrate us,” Murphy said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group