Who’s Using IPAWS – And Who Could Be and Isn’t

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IPAWS (FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System) is a powerful and often critical tool in notifying the public during man-made or natural disasters. Which is why more than 1500 jurisdictions and agencies across the US have become authorized by FEMA to send IPAWS messages.

As of August 2020 (the latest data available from FEMA), every state – plus the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have at least one authorized agency; Colorado and Iowa have the most with 3-4. More than 1100 counties have an authorized agency, as do almost 200 cities, plus tribal governments, councils of government and various regional authorities. There are even authorized authorities among universities, military bases and national parks. As a percentage of the relevant jurisdictions, about 38% of US counties can use IPAWS but only 1% of municipalities are authorized.

But there are still a lot of jurisdictions that don’t have IPAWS:

  • 14 states have an authorized agency at the county level among at least half of their counties. That means that 36 states have less than half their counties using IPAWS.
  • There are 17 states where less than a quarter of county authorities are approved to use IPAWS.
  • Municipal use of IPAWS is growing but is still quite small. There are now 6 states (NH, NV, CA, MA, NM and VA) with 5%+ of municipalities authorized for IPAWS, compared to just 2 three years ago. But that obviously means that the vast majority of cities and towns are not using this tool.

You can check all data here.

Top 10 states with the highest local IPAWS certification rate (county and municipal levels)

State County Alerting Authorities Total Counties % Authorized State Municipal Alerting Authorities Total Municipalities % Authorized
WY 23 23 100% NH 3 13 23.1%
FL 62 67 93% NV 3 19 15.8%
AZ 13 15 87% CA 55 478 11.5%
CA 49 58 84% MA 4 45 8.9%
MN 70 87 80% VA 15 229 6.6%
WV 44 55 80% NM 6 101 5.9%
NY 45 62 73% AZ 3 90 3.3%
MD 16 23 70% UT 4 242 1.7%
PA 45 67 67% TX 19 1,209 1.6%
IA 64 99 65% MT 2 129 1.6%

(data current as of Aug.24, 2020)

There are many potential reasons for the disparate levels of IPAWS authorization:

  • Many cities piggy-back on their county’s Emergency Notification System so they rely on the county to send emergency alerts.
  • Lack of funds. Some local governments don’t have the money to spend, a problem that will be worse over the next few years.
  • Some states (e.g., NH, DE, and CT) use their state notification system for all or most local jurisdictions.
  • Some jurisdictions rely on other methods of communication such as sirens, radio/TV alerts and social media.

But adding IPAWS to your emergency communication toolkit can provide real value. For example, IPAWS can send messages to almost all mobile phones, without any need for registration. And IPAWS can also provide access to other message delivery mechanisms, such as the Emergency Alert System, digital signage, and new outlets, including city kiosks, sirens, critical event management and an accessible alerting app.
In addition, FEMA is constantly updating IPAWS. The latest updates render IPAWS an even more sophisticated communication tool:

  1. IPAWS messages now contain up to 360 characters.
  2. You can include hyper-links. This means you can send a bulletin with lots of information to the public.
  3. IPAWS now supports alerts in Spanish.
  4. The geographic accuracy of IPAWS alerts has also greatly improved.

So, while there are lots of agencies using IPAWS, there’s also a lot of room for improvement. With almost 2,000 counties and thousands of towns and cities still not using this tool, we want to help make it easier.

And here’s our Halloween Treat for you – Hyper-Reach is offering (for a limited time) IPAWS for free to new customers. If you’re not already an authorized Alerting Authority and want more information, you can reach us at 877-912-7437 ext. 3, or fill out the form here.

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