Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)

During an emergency, alert and warning officials need to provide the public with life-saving information quickly. IPAWS is a modernization and integration of the nation’s alert and warning infrastructure, and will save time when time matters most, protecting life and property.  Watch a video about IPAWS. 

IPAWS System Test

FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, conducted a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Wednesday, August 11 at approximately 11:20am PST. 

The WEA test was directed only to consumer cell phones where the subscriber had opted-in to receive test messages. This will be the second nationwide WEA test, but the first nationwide WEA test on a consumer opt-in basis. The test message displayed in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset.

Napa County Office of Emergency Services asks members of the public interested in supporting efforts to enhance alert and warning programs, who opted in to receive the test message to complete this survey after they received the test IPAWS message. 

The data collected through this survey is designed to help Napa County OES and other public agencies identify effective alert and warning strategies, given the County’s varied topography and cell coverage. 

Click Here to Open the Post-IPAWSTest Survey

What is the Wireless Emergency Alert system?

Launched in 2012, WEA is a tool for authorized government agencies to reach the public during times of emergency. It is used locally to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on compatible mobile devices. WEA is designed to provide geographically targeted, text-like messages to alert the public of imminent threats in their area. In 2018, Napa County expanded its alert and warning program to include authorized use of the WEA system through Nixle and the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS). 

The public can learn more about Wireless Emergency Alerts on the FCC’s website. 

What language will the WEA test be in?

The WEA test will appear in English or Spanish depending on the language selected for the phone’s main menu.

How will I know the difference between a WEA and a regular text message?

WEA includes a special tone (some describe it as quite loud) and a vibration, both repeated twice, and special text message that appears on the mobile device screen.

Will the test alert be used to gather my private data?

No, both EAS and WEA are broadcast technologies and do not collect any of your data. This test is strictly designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the systems sending an emergency message.

The County’s survey is designed to give alert and warning specialists a better understanding of which systems continue to be effective means of warning communities about emergencies. 

How do I know if I’ve opted in to receive WEA tests? How do I opt in?

When you buy a new wireless phone, the “State/Local” WEA test option is disabled, so interested parties must opt in to receive test messages. The method for opting in to receive WEA tests varies by phone. 

Below are instructions for most iPhones and Android devices. Step by step instructions are also available here (PDF). If you have another type of phone (not iPhone or Android), you may need to check with your phone manufacturer or wireless provider for additional information on how to receive WEA test alerts and follow the guidance provided. 

What can I expect on August 11 if I have opted in to receive test messages? 

Beginning at 11:20 a.m. PST, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones where the subscriber has opted-in to receive test messages, that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless provider participates in WEA, should be capable of receiving the test message. Wireless phones should receive the message only once.

For consumers who have opted in to receive WEA test messages, the message that appears on their phones will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Opt-in phones with the main menu set to Spanish will display: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

Napa County Office of Emergency Services asks individuals supporting efforts to enhance alert and warning programs, to complete this survey after they have received the message.