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Denham to hold panel on FEMA's integrated warning and alert system

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, chaired by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), will hold a hearing today to examine the development of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

On Sept. 13, Denham and Ranking Member Norton introduced H.R.2904, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2011, which would establish a clear framework and timetable for FEMA’s modernization of its public alerts and warning system. Currently, the United States issues emergency warnings through the National Emergency Alert System (EAS), which relays emergency warnings and messages through broadcast and other media. A recent test of the system failed, provoking the need for this hearing and demonstrating the urgent need for modernized, reliable communications for the safety of Americans.

“Devastation from natural disasters in my district and across the country this year highlight how important it is to have a fast and effective warning system in place to alert people of impending disasters. During this hearing, we will review our IPAWS legislation with industry professionals and discuss the most efficient and up-to-date policies to effectively communicate about emergencies,” Denham said in a news release.

EAS allows the President and authorized officials to transmit emergency messages to the public via television and radio. The current system is largely based on 1960s technology and is only able to transmit limited text and audio alerts. The framework for modernization of the system created in H.R. 2904 would develop a system that would provide for the use of as many methods of communication as possible, including wireless technologies in sending alerts. IPAWS aims to improve public safety through the rapid dissemination of emergency messages to as many people as possible over as many communication devices as possible, including multiple languages, in American Sign Language, and in Braille.

The panel will review Denham’s and Ranking Member Norton’s legislation and receive testimony from key industry professionals. More information on tomorrow’s hearing can be found here.