We are receiving hundreds of reports from people throughout the country who are saying their phones are freezing up, some after receiving over 20 FEMA IPAWS Emergency Alerts on their phones.
Back in September, FEMA conducted a nationwide test of their EAS Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS), but that test was announced well ahead of time and did not include the IPAWS WEA integrations that allows these types of messages to be delivered to smartphone devices. Today’s message was not announced by FEMA, so it was either a technical glitch or the system may have been hacked like back in September – then again FEMA just might need to get their shit together!
Most of the reports say the message reads:
“TEST:IPAWSTester- Area Emergency Test #1” Integrated Public Alert Warning System
A number of law enforcement agencies and 911 call centers have been inundated with calls from panicked people who have no idea what these messages mean. The fact that these emergency response agencies are puzzled by the messages suggests that this was not a regularly scheduled test since they would have been informed.
We’re receiving reports of citizens in Milford receiving IPAWS test text messages on their mobile phones. We’re… https://t.co/VlQsnSg6vm
— Milford NH Fire (@Milfordnhfire) November 7, 2016
County OES is getting some calls about an IPAWS alert that was received by some individuals in Del Norte County…. https://t.co/5zMW19mYMH
— Prepare Del Norte (@PrepareDN) November 7, 2016
Are you getting multiple “IPAWS” test messages? Seems to be an issue w/ Federal Integrated Public Alert Warning System. Please be patient. pic.twitter.com/VzVAdZFbiT
— GIHallEMA (@GIHallEMA) November 7, 2016
Others have taken to Twitter, trying to figure out how to disable the alerts and stop their phones from freezing up, something that would be a problem during an actual emergency. We are all for being able to alert people during times of crisis, but someone over at FEMA really needs to figure this system out!
@projectfi any idea how to stop these ipaws notification? i’ve received around 30 in the last 20 mins !!
— viswanath sundaram (@vishu_were_here) November 7, 2016
What is FEMA IPAWS?
FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is an internet-based capability Federal, State, territorial, tribal, and local authorities can use to issue critical public alerts and warnings.
According to FEMA, IPAWS was built to ensure that under all conditions the President of the United States can alert and warn the American people. IPAWS allows alerting authorities to deliver alerts simultaneously through multiple communications devices reaching as many people as possible. These communication pathways include Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that send messages directly to smartphones, even when cellular networks are overloaded and can no longer support person-to-person calls, texts, or emails.