Following the January 13, 2018, false
missile alert in Hawaii, Congress requested we examine the Federal
Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) role in the incident. As part of this
review, we sought to determine whether FEMA exercises appropriate oversight
of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) used to send
alerts to the public.
After examining FEMA’s roles and
responsibilities in the public alert and warning process, we concluded that
FEMA has limited responsibility for the sending and canceling of state and
local alerts. Although FEMA maintains IPAWS as a messaging platform, state
and local alerting authorities must obtain commercially-available emergency
alert software to generate a message which passes through IPAWS for
authentication and delivery.