FEMA’s Oversight of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS)
From Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, November 19, 2018 (excerpt)
Why We Did This Inspection
Following the January 13, 2018, false missile alert in Hawaii, Congress requested we examine the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) role in the incident. As part of this review, we sought to determine whether FEMA exercises appropriate oversight of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) used to send alerts to the public.
What We Recommend
We are making two recommendations to improve the FEMA IPAWS Program Management Office’s oversight of IPAWS.
What We Found
After examining FEMA’s roles and responsibilities in the public alert and warning process, we concluded that FEMA has limited responsibility for the sending and canceling of state and local alerts. Although FEMA maintains IPAWS as a messaging platform, state and local alerting authorities must obtain commercially-available emergency alert software to generate a message which passes through IPAWS for authentication and delivery. However, we found that FEMA does not require that this software perform functions critical to the alerting process, such as the ability to preview or cancel an alert. Instead, FEMA only recommends that software vendors include these capabilities as “best practices.” FEMA also does not require that software vendors provide training to alerting authorities on how to use their chosen software. As a result, alerting authorities have experienced difficulties in various aspects of the alerting process.
FEMA concurred with the recommendations and is implementing corrective actions to enhance the effectiveness of the IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO). The IPAWS PMO will incorporate requirements for inclusion of critical functions and provisions for training into the memorandums of agreement with state, local, tribal, and territorial alerting authorities. We consider both recommendations resolved and open.
PDF: FEMA’s Oversight of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS)
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