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IPAWS - The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System


The Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) is FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts, to radio and television via the Emergency Alert System and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio.

Macomb County, Michigan, strives to improve public safety through the rapid dissemination of emergency messages to as many people as possible over as many communication devices as possible before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. To accomplish this, Macomb County has adopted FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to augment existing public alert and warning technologies. IPAWS allows public safety officials at all levels of government to send consistent emergency messages through multiple pathways to help save lives and protect property. 

IPAWS supports efforts to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against the risk of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man‐made disasters, including catastrophic incidents. IPAWS can be used to send lifesaving information through existing communication technologies, including radio and television stations via the Emergency Alert System (EAS), cellular phones via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), NOAA All‐Hazards National Weather Radio (NWR) via the IPAWS‐NOAA gateway, internet applications and websites via the IPAWS All‐Hazards Information Feed, and unique and local systems (e.g., digital road signs, sirens).    

IPAWS will supplement existing public alert and warning systems already adopted by Macomb County and its 27 municipalities, including outdoor warning sirens and emergency mass notification systems. Macomb County will leverage IPAWS to expand the delivery of alert and warning information, increase the resilience and reach of local systems, and support protection, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts.

Outdoor Warning Siren Activation

Macomb County will issue an IPAWS message in conjunction with any activation of its outdoor warning system (siren system). The criteria for sending an IPAWS message for severe weather will mirror the criteria for activating the sirens:

  • A Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service affecting any portion of Macomb County 
  • A Severe Thunderstorm Warning forecast to be accompanied by winds of 70 mph or greater
  • A tornado/funnel cloud sighting that has been verified by a reputable source (police, fire, EMS, trained spotter, etc.) 
  • A Severe Thunderstorm Warning forecast to be accompanied by hail greater than 1.75" in diameter


An IPAWS message accompanying a siren activation must be sent at the same time as the sirens are activated or as closely as is practical. 

The NWS will automatically activate IPAWS for a Tornado Warning, as well as a Severe Thunderstorm Warning forecast to bring 80 mph winds and/or baseball‐size (2.75") hail. 

Macomb County WILL NOT activate IPAWS in conjunction with any test activation of the outdoor warning system.


Other Circumstances

Macomb County may activate IPAWS for any other situation that poses a widespread threat to life safety.

Examples of events that may threaten life safety include, but are not limited to:

  • Significant hazardous materials release 
  • Act of terrorism with widespread implications 
  • Severe weather, such as major flooding, that Macomb County deems capable of causing widespread life safety issues for which the National Weather Service has not sent an emergency alert 
  • Natural disasters with the potential to cause widespread injury or loss of life