SEPT 30, 2020
BENTON TWP – In OCT Berrien County Emergency Management is seeking to enter into an agreement with Van Buren and Allegan County to serve as each other’s backup launching point for emergency alerts to the public. SGT. Ron Bush has been working to incorporate newer public alerting technology into our toolbox since 2013. One particular system used to alert the public is called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
IPAWS, essentially is a switch that sends an alert and instructions to the broadcast stations for Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages and cell carriers to broadcast to cell phones with text-like alerts. Many became familiar with the system through the use of Amber Alert type warnings as well as when the Stay Home, Stay Safe orders were made by the Governor for COVID19.
IPAWS does a few other things, but the two points we want to highlight are EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Berrien County owns the equipment needed to send these alerts to the public and maintains it. FEMA owns the system that delivers the messages to the radio stations and cell phone providers. The challenge to applying this technology over the years has been related to ensuring regulations caught up to this newer technology an the needs of the public. We are now in a great position to transition IPAWS to be our primary alerting system. SGT Bush has become nationally known as a strong advocate to making the necessary changes and paving the way for IPAWS to become our go-to system for alerting the public. Combined with B- WARN!, an opt-in service that sends alerts to devices beyond cell phones; we will be able to strengthen our alerting system in some of the following ways:
- Improves indoor warning.
- Instructions are given with the alert so people can take action immediately.
- Alert to areas without sirens. Now, that is a large portion of the County. We have to educate the community in different ways on how they would be warned based on if they are near a siren.
- IPAWS gives us a consistent message across the whole County.
- More control over making sure the system is not activated accidentally..
- Better warning for those who have diminished hearing or other functional needs.
- More familiarity of the alerting system for those traveling and visiting our area because it is a National System.
- Cost of maintenance is low.
- IPAWS puts a “siren” in the pocket of every person carrying a cell phone.
In 2021, we will be increasing our public awareness and messaging campaign to better educate the community on these systems so understand them.
To learn more about IPAWS, visit the FEMA webpage. Learn more and sign up for B-WARN! at our webpage.