On Thursday, September 20, beginning at 2:18 p.m. Eastern Time, there will be a nationwide test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of IPAWS and its Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to (1) assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message, and (2) determine whether improvements are needed.
The WEA portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. ET and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. ET. This test message will be sent to cell phones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA, which is why it is important to make local education agencies (LEAs) aware in advance.
Since learning time will likely be disrupted, school safety partners, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students and its REMS TA Center, and the Youth Preparedness group within FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division, highly encourage local agencies to use the time to provide a teachable moment about emergency preparedness. For example, LEAs can do the following:
- Craft a customized message notifying of the upcoming IPAWS test, while also providing information that is specific to your district. For example, you may want to provide details about your local emergency notification systems or describe how your LEA plans to communicate with school populations during real emergencies.
- Ensure that messaging sent about IPAWS is accessible to those with access and functional needs. FEMA has prepared an accessible version of the announcement about this month’s test that can be shared with the whole school community. All community members are encouraged to watch this brief video.
- We recommend that schools and school districts plan a review of drill protocols with students to coincide with the IPAWS notification. For example, schools are required to conduct annual evacuation drills, and the interruption from the IPAWS notification on September 20 could serve as a marker to review drill procedures with students or to conduct this drill. If planning a drill or exercise at this time is not possible, emergency planning teams at schools and school districts can be encouraged to use this event as an impetus to setting their calendar of drills and exercises for the school year.
- Schools and school districts need to create a Communications and Warning Annex as a part of any comprehensive and high-quality school emergency operations plans (EOPs) and as recommended in the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (PDF).
- Utilize the fact sheets that FEMA created in to describe IPAWS and its EAS and WEA systems to LEA Web pages and share them via social media and other dissemination channels:
Maine and our nation’s federal partners are committed to strengthening the National Preparedness System, and this test provides just one example of that commitment.
For further information:
Contact the REMS TA Center, your national school safety technical assistance center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-855-781-REMS  if you have questions about this test or need general support with emergency preparedness planning.
Contact Pat Hinckley, Transportation and Facilities Administrator, at email@example.com or 207-624-6886 if you have questions about Maine school security.