IPAWS - WEA - (These are Warning Systems)
IPAWS is a federal portal maintained by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow for the issuance of emergency messages to any IPAWS compliant warning systems, including EAS systems for Broadcasters, some public warning siren systems, and the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system on newer model smartphones.
Local jurisdictions have to be "IPAWS Certified" (meaning they jumped through various red-tape hoops and obtained specialized training) to be granted access into the IPAWS system. Campbell County has been IPAWS Certified since October of 2012.
IPAWS can only be used for a very narrowly defined set of warnings, and if the alert meets the criteria, we log into the Federal Portal, transmit our message into that computer system which then in turn redistributes it nationwide to all IPAWS recipients. Only those looking for the Campbell County Codes will then have their systems automatically activated...but if it is, the alert goes off and the message is displayed or broadcast.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
This system is the one on which you'll most typically receive IPAWS alerts.
WEA is a public safety system that allows customers who own certain wireless phone models and other enabled mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. These alerts ride on a special frequency on the cellular system separate from that used by your text messaging and are very limited...they will tell you there is an emergency, but you'll probably have to go to some other source for details.
WEA enables messages to target specific geographic areas by selecting only the cell towers in the area selected to receive the alert. Those cell towers then broadcast the emergency alerts for reception by all WEA-enabled mobile devices in the targeted area, no matter which carrier or service provider they may use.
The messages are strictly one-way...from the system out to the devices and are free of any charge to the recipients...they aren't charged air time, message fees, etc.
The catch is, you have to have a mobile device that is capable of receiving the message...not all smartphones are WEA enabled, however within a few years, the older devices are expected to be replaced and more and more users will be able to receive WEA alerts.
The National Weather Service is now sending WEA alerts out for certain high-danger warnings, such as tornado warnings...and they are able to select the cell towers within the tornado warning box and send the WEA message to only that specific threatened area.