FEMA officials are still evaluating an outage of its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) alerting platform late last week.
The IPAWS outage, first reported at 8:05 p.m. EDT Thursday, left local alerting authorities and the National Weather Service unable to post CAP (Common Alerting Protocol) messages. Broadcasters across the country reported receiving “504 Gateway Errors” on their EAS units.
FEMA says IPAWS’ alerting capabilities were fully restored by 12:41 a.m. EDT Friday morning.
According to a bulletin sent to broadcasters at the onset of the outage: “Due to the nature of the network outage, it is not possible for the IPAWS Technical Support Services Facility to use IPAWS to alert on behalf of local authorities. We recommend that Alerting Authorities use other alerting methods should a situation requiring public warning/notification occur.”
FEMA officials explained in the bulletin that “the issue was being actively worked and elevated to the highest levels.
Officials with the federal agency in an email to Radio World acknowledged the outage and said it was “still investigating the connectivity outage and ways to mitigate future connectivity impacts on IPAWS, alerting authorities, and critical private sector partners.”
“During this outage, the IPAWS application was operational but the network services were disrupted. FEMA will work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop any actions necessary to improve network availability supporting IPAWs,” FEMA officials told Radio World.
FEMA says IPAWS was designed to maintain less than 10 hours of down time per year.
This most recent IPAWS outage was the latest in a series of incidents to plague the CAP-based warning platform. Broadcasters have been reporting intermittent IPAWS network outages the past few months, according to an EAS message board, and there were a series of failed Required Weekly Test (RWT) messages from FEMA earlier this year that caused broadcasters’ EAS units to reject the message.
FEMA at the time said the issue did not affect EAS messages sent by more than 1,700 Authorized Alert Originators. FEMA resolved the automated weekly test issue on March 22nd and all regularly scheduled tests have been issued as expected, according to a statement from FEMA.
FEMA, which coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing and responding to domestic disasters, said the testing issue was caused by the test message being signed by an expired digital certificate.
[Related: “Technical Glitch Caused EAS Units to Reject IPAWS Required Weekly Test“]