GAO Issues Report on National Alerting Capability

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Washington - May 23, 2013 - Since 2009, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has taken steps to improve the capabilities of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and to increase federal, state and local capabilities to alert the public, but barriers remain to fully implementing an integrated system. One area where alerting has improved includes the IPAWS capability to receive and authenticate Internet-based alerts from federal, state and local public authorities and disseminate them to the public through multiple systems. But state and local alerting authorities contacted by the General Accountability Office cited a need for more guidance from FEMA on how to integrate and test IPAWS capabilities with their existing alerting systems.

To evaluate the current status of emergency altering, a national EAS test was held in November 2011. The GAO was asked to review the test and other alerting efforts to improve EAS. The GAO examined how IPAWS capabilities have changed since 2009 and what barriers, if any, affect its implementation and the results of the nationwide EAS test and federal efforts to address identified weaknesses. The GAO reviewed FEMA, FCC and other documentation, and interviewed industry stakeholders and alerting authorities from six locations that were selected because they have public-alerting systems in addition to EAS and experienced problems during the nationwide EAS test.

The GAO recommends that FEMA work in conjunction with the FCC to establish guidance for states to fully implement and test IPAWS components and implement a strategy for regular nationwide EAS testing. In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with the GAO's recommendations and provided examples of actions aimed at addressing the recommendations. The DHS, the FCC and the Department of Commerce also provided technical comments, which have been incorporated as appropriate.

More information and a link to the entire GAO report is available online.

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