Latest Enhancements for Wireless Emergency Alerts Go Live

WASHINGTON—The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that IPAWS-OPEN release 3.10 went live today, Dec. 18, offering several new enhancements, including support for 360-character alerts.

WEA, or Wireless Emergency Alerts, is used to send warnings about dangerous weather, missing children and other emergency situations to the public via their wireless phones and mobile devices.

The latest version of WEA also supports Spanish-language alerts, the ability to reach 100% of a targeted area without an overshoot of more than 1/10 of a mile as well as enhancements to the WEA test and public safety categories.

However, leveraging the enhancements requires more than an update to IPAWS, FEMA said. Wireless provides will need to update their networks nationwide, their customers’ phones and the software authorities rely upon to send alerts.

While the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) has tested and confirmed wireless providers can receive enhanced WEA messages from IPAWS, it will take time for wireless customers around the country to receive enhanced WEA on their phones, FEMA said.

IPAWS PMO also has confirmed that most of the software used by alerting authorities around the country has been upgraded and tested by FEMA; however, it is possible that not all of the alerting authorities are ready to write alerts taking advantage of the new WEA enhancements, FEMA said.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued his own statement about the WEA update:

“One of my key public safety priorities has been to ensure that America's emergency alerting system meets the needs of public safety officials and the communities they serve. With these improvements, Wireless Emergency Alerts are now an even more powerful tool for emergency managers to warn and protect the public. These improvements respond to input we've received from the public safety community and will help save lives.”

This is expansion of mobile services is part of the architecture for delivery information during emergencies that broadcasters also take part in.

More information is available by emailing FEMA IPAWS PMO.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.