IPAWS at the Local Level. Getting There… Slowly.

We just did an analysis of the local agencies approved for sending alerts through the IPAWS system.  The data is current as of September 26 (you can find it here on FEMA’s website).

As of this writing, there appear to be a little more than 420 counties approved or in process to become IPAWS Alerting Authorities (these are agencies that can send out messages using the IPAWS network.)  Add to that about 130 municipal and consolidated governments, and that makes less than 600 agencies at the local level approved or waiting for IPAWS use.

Because of overlapping jurisdictions, the population counts are tricky.  But at the very most, these local agencies cover perhaps 70 million of the US population of more than 300 million.  So perhaps 20% of the US population can be reached locally by IPAWS alerts.  (We think it’s less than that, though.)

Of course, state agencies can send out local alerts, too.  And it seems as though this might be the intent in some states, especially in New England, where no local agencies have been approved for IPAWS.  Since FEMA rules require an Alerting Authority to get approval at the state level, it looks as though the New England states (ME, MA, CT, VT, NH, RI) are restricting IPAWS access to the state level.

In other jurisdictions, we see a few patterns:

  1. Where the specific agency is named, the emergency management agency or emergency services agency is named most often.
  2. The next most common agency named is the sheriff’s department. (Of course, in some places, emergency services is part of the sheriff’s department.)
  3. In one county – Montgomery County, TX – there are two agencies listed as Alerting Authorities.  Bot the Office of Emergency Management and the Sheriff’s Office are listed as approved AA’s.
  4. In a handful of jurisdictions, the “agency” named is the County Commissioners or County Government.  So, presumably, these are delegating the authority to some other department or departments.

Why these patterns are developing as they are is interesting, but will require surveying the various states and agencies to understand what’s going on.  In the meantime, it seems clear that most IPAWS alerts will continue to come largely from Federal and State authorities.

Which is a shame, we think, since Wireless Emergency Alerts can help to reach many more people who may be in harm’s way.

We’ll update this data regularly, so expect more insights here.


2 Replies to “IPAWS at the Local Level. Getting There… Slowly.”

  1. Remember, the National Weather Service and AMBER Alert folks are using IPAWS (and with great success). So, IPAWS alerts are reaching well more than 20% of the nation’s population.

    1. Absolutely. And those are geo-targeted, so they do get delivered locally. Which is why (we think) local jurisdictions should do more to get alerting authority. Thanks, Rick.

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