EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — January 16, 2008

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)
The Role of Sandia National Laboratories

Ronald F. Glaser, PE
Manager, Systems Engineering Department
Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. And Happy New Year! We hope you had great holidays and thank you for joining us today. It is good to be back! Our topic today is "The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS): The Role of Sandia National Laboratories."

There is a recent article on the Government Technology Web site titled "Local Emergency Alert Capabilities Not Keeping Pace with How 21st Century Citizens Receive and Process Information" (linked from our Background Page or access directly at http://www.govtech.com/gt/244324?topic=117693). Today we will hear about a federal effort to improve this situation.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today's special guest. Ron Glaser currently manages the Systems Engineering Department at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and is SNL's point of contact for Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Coordination and Intelligence (C5I) systems. As part of the Transportation Safeguards and Surety Programs Group, he is the Program Manager for FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems (IPAWS) program.

Ron has been the program manager for the SNL Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection (AT/FP) business area and the manager responsible for the Unconventional Nuclear Weapons Defense (UNWD) program for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Prior to joining the Security Systems and Technology Center in 1999, Ron was the Business Area manager for Information Systems Engineering Applications at SNL.

Welcome Ron, and thank you for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to your to start us off please.


Ron Glaser: First let me start with answering the question: What is the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)?

IPAWS is Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program begun in 2004 to improve public alert & warning in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), & other public/private stakeholders.

IPAWS is an evolving "system of systems" that includes Emergency Alert System (EAS) upgrades, National Warning System (NAWAS) enhancements and new pilots and systems. These include the Digital EAS (DEAS) program with the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), the Web Alert and Relay Network (WARN) pilot with Sandia National Labs and the Geo-Targeted Alerting System (GTAS) program with NOAA.

From the Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned Report (2006): "DHS should establish an integrated public alert and warning system in coordination with all relevant departments and agencies."

IPAWS is the Nation’s next-generation emergency warning capability. IPAWS will work with public and private sectors to integrate warning systems to effectively communicate alerts via TV, radio, telephone, Internet/ computer, cell phone, and other personal communications devices. The IPAWS will allow:

  • the President (or designated Federal officials) to communicate to the American people before, during, and after a crisis,
  • the President and authorized Federal government officials to gain situational awareness from State and local emergency operations centers,
  • effective communications to State and territory agencies, Governors, tribal councils, and other alert and warning stakeholders, and
  • State and local emergency managers to send messages to residents during non-Federal emergencies.

IPAWS supports FEMA’s goal to reduce losses to life and property from all hazards by providing reliable and accurate information before, during and after an emergency.

The first slide shows FEMA's end vision of IPAWS to deliver coordinated messages over more channels to more people, anywhere, anytime.

[Slide 1]

IPAWS mission is to transform the national Emergency Alert System (EAS). Currently the EAS reaches ~12% of the listening population during the day and only about 1% at night. Also today's EAS distributed via television and radio provides audio-only alerts.

The IPAWS goal is to reach 85% of the listening population in 10 minutes and to provide voice, text or video to all Americans including those with disabilities or who cannot understand English. Sandia's role is to:

  1. 1) Design, set up, and operate a pilot alert program for the 2007 hurricane season. An initial capability was deployed 1 August 2007. This pilot ended 31 December.

  2. 2) Develop and pilot new architecture for next hurricane season. This includes understanding the needs/requirements of users, developing a secure architecture for sending messages (internal and public), developing standards, and certifying vendors for interoperability. This will be a multiple year effort to develop the architecture/standards and roll it out nationally.

This next slide shows the initial IPAWS pilot project focused on the three hurricane states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and lists the capabilities demonstrated/evaluated.

[Slide 2]

The capabilities included:

  1. Web Alert and Relay Network (WARN) Opt-in Software which allows emergency personnel to generate and control warnings via a web interface and provides multiple alerts and warnings to people who opt to receive notifications,

  2. Emergency Telephone Notification (ETN) hardware to provide basic telephone notification (20,000 calls in 10 minutes) and enhanced ETN which provided additional hardware to increase call capacity to 60,000 ETN calls in 10 minutes,

  3. the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Notification System (DHNS) to provide American Sign Language (ASL) translation of emergency messages to hearing impaired and to post those videos on the Internet,

  4. the ability for Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) to remotely activate alert and warning devices such as sirens and tone alert radios, and

  5. the ability for EOCs to issue alerts and warnings direct to local primary radio and TV stations over the Internet.

This next slide is a graphic showing the Hurricane Season '07 pilot capability (circled) and some of the other potential capabilities for future consideration. In addition to other than over the air radio and TV, this includes cable and satellite transmission.

[Slide 3]

A major future capability being worked with the FCC is the ability to do geo-targeted cell phone broadcasts independent of carrier and home location.

The big question is how to provide coordination and interoperability in situations requiring cross enterprise messages. Many current architectures discuss message exchanges in terms of a single enterprise while a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) offers benefits from its ability to cross ownership boundaries, i.e. Federal, Regional, State, Local and Tribal.

To be interoperable, crossing ownership boundaries must accommodate both technical (syntax, semantics) and policy aspects (access control, security). Interoperability among diverse participants requires a prearranged groundwork for communications and understanding supporting different policy and security contexts, incremental addition of services and participants, and needs to provide resource multiplication when adding another stakeholder.

Slide 4 depicts the IPAWS interconnection question in pictorial form and also introduces the issue of an authentication boundary for policy enforcement and cross-jurisdictional trust.

[Slide 4]

The IPAWS vision is an architecture for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Coordination, Intelligence and Interoperability resulting in Situational Awareness from Customized Operational Pictures Based on Common Data.

It includes a Federal Trans-Jurisdictional Grid interoperable across the multi-agency enterprises of Federal, Regional, State, Local, Tribes and the Public. It involves Choreographed Information Sharing based on Data-Content Routing within Communities of Interest.

The architecture will provide Communications Surety (Security, Authentication, Robust Delivery) with Nation Wide Scalability. It will be built on Open Standards for vendor-independent Plug-&-Play.

The implementation plan is a The Trans-enterprise Services Grid (TSG). The TSG is a set of intersecting internet partitions defined by Communities of Interest (COIs), protected by Application Layer Routers/Firewalls called Secure Policy-oriented Object Routers (SPORs) that enforce COI Policies and Rules for Cross-Jurisdictional messaging.

The TSG architecture is based on Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) Emergency Data eXange Language-Distribution Element (EDXL-DE) and Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) Standards.

In summary, Sandia is tasked to develop, demonstrate and evaluate the interoperability of a secure architecture; to support integration and migration to standards and framework protocols. We have TSG/SPOR test beds under development and are testing a distributed TSG/SPOR infrastructure.

Sandia is working with OASIS and others on Interface standards (CAP 1.1) and profiles. The Hurricane ’07 Pilot Analysis, Tests results and lessons learned report is in preparation (due to FEMA ~ 1 February).

One other piece of the IPAWS is project the supplier qualification program. Supplier Interoperability Opportunities will be communicated through our Supplier Webpage at http://public.ca.sandia.gov/IPAWSsuppliers/.

This last slide provides some Sandia points of contact and useful web site URLs.

[Slide 5]

This concludes my overview, and I will now turn the floor back over to our Moderator to start the Q&A portion of the program.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Ron. Now, to proceed to your questions and comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Isabel McCurdy: Ron, what training is provided to learn IPAWS?

Ron Glaser: Training is mostly the function of the suppliers that will be contracted by the state and local EMs.

Darryl Parker: Why was WSI the only CAP/XML source used for the EAS connection for the Hurrican '07 pilot in LA, MS, and AL?

Ron Glaser: WSI was selected due to an existing contract by FEMA the previous year and the short timeframe we were given.

Anthony Smith: What is the name of the working group that Sandia is involved with that is putting together the interoperability models & processes?

Ron Glaser: The standards body we are working with is OASIS.

Lloyd Colston: Moving forward, (and I'm excited about this), will there be a list of vendors who are adopting this technology? I know DMIS offers the "gateway". I am hearing more and more vendors offering the technology. I get concerned when I mention CAP and OPEN and get "deer in headlights" look.

Ron Glaser: Yes. Part of the vision is to establish a process for "qualifying" vendors.

Henry Black: When are the State Emergency Communications Committee Chairs being notified of IPAWS and the impact it will have on the current state and local EAS Plans?

Ron Glaser: Have to defer that one to FEMA. We are still coordinating and working plans with them.

Jeff Braun: You mentioned that three States were in Pilot Program, but the background material indicated other States, like Texas, Florida, etc.?

Ron Glaser: Depending on available funding and FEMA decisions we are looking at expanding the number of states (FL and TX) as well as capability.

Greg Donarum: Is there an API available for connection to your system?

Ron Glaser: Will be. This is still being worked as we stand up the test capability.

Ric Skinner: I presume there is a GIS component to IPAWS. What platform are you using?

Ron Glaser: Yes. We are trying to stay vendor independent. Currently we are using Google Maps.

Neil McDevitt: How does IPAWS differ from the DEAS projects that FEMA is piloting with public television stations in New Jersey and other states?

Ron Glaser: IPAWS and DEAS (and other) FEMA pilots are to be integrated in the end. DEAS is more of the backbone interconnectivity, where IPAWS focuses more on the Alert and Warning to the public.

Darryl Parker: Is there opportunity for other providers of CAP/XML messaging to contract with FEMA or Sandia for interoperability into EAS?

Ron Glaser: Yes, definitely. Our proposal with FEMA for 08 is to use existing capabilities in the states and limit federal funding.

Greg Donarum: Will you be participating in any tests or demonstrations this year (like the CWID trial DM-OPEN participated in last year)?

Ron Glaser: Possibly. It depends on resources. There are many opportunities.

Bill Lang: Will these applications be susceptible to Internet attacks that could render them useless?

Ron Glaser: That is one of the main considerations for the architecture and the SPOR capabilities. They will be evaluated by FEMA's accreditation support by the DoD Joint Interoperability Test Center (JITC).

Larry Rundquist: Can you briefly explain the focus of the pilot study in Alaska?

Ron Glaser: Sorry. I am not familiar with the details.

NIMS SC: At what stage of development is IPAWS? Is it deployed, if not when will it be deployed?

Ron Glaser: Sandia has a test bed in the process of being stood up in Albuquerque, which will be extended to our site in Calif. We are also proposing to deploy a limited capability for Hurricane 08.

Amy Sebring: This next question may be a little off topic, but if you can address at all Ron, please do.

Michael Williams: The Wildland Residents Association-San Marcos Pass VFD utilize a low-power AM radio on 1040 AM, primarily for wildfire and flooding information. These stations include NOAA and associated EDS automated systems, and are becoming more popular. What efforts can be taken to protect these licensed stations (frequencies) form new broadcast licenses that could over power these low power stations?

Ron Glaser: Outside of my area. I'm aware of the concern but have no input.

Lloyd Colston: Will the system be web based or will the vendors have some "control" of the product they introduce to the masses? In other words, can the system be used, at the local level, on a smart phone without a "plugin" or client?

Ron Glaser: It is up to the vendors and the states as to the capability they choose. IPAWS will provide the interconnecting infrastructure for cross-jurisdictional connections, and to reach federal agencies as desired.

Ric Skinner: Are there opportunities for contractors to facilitate pilots or tests of the system in regional areas? I'm especially interested in the public health/hospital arena.

Ron Glaser: I hope there will be. It will be up to FEMA and the States/Locals. Sandia will attempt to coordinate as much as we can.

Adam Senn: Where does IPAWS fit with the current DM OPEN services? It sounds like a replacement, or at least an alternative. I would think it best to not have multiple (competing?) networks.

Ron Glaser: Agreed. We are talking with DHS and will attempt to coordinate/avoid duplication/leverage as much as possible. It's part of our program.

NIMS SC: We understand that EDXL-DE is an integral component of IPAWS. When will this be ready to operate like the OPEN backbone?

Ron Glaser: Good question. I unfortunately am not the technical expert. Dave Ellis, who is my chief architecture expert can best answer that. Can I ask you to direct that question to him at the e-mail on the POC slide?

Amy Sebring: I have a question. Are you using COI and jurisdiction interchangeably? That is, will the grid be organized based on geography and/or will it be geo-referenced?

Ron Glaser: COI is broader than jurisdiction. It covers whatever agreements parties enter into beyond geography or jurisdiction.

Bill Lang: Wonderful stuff by the way. Will business and the public still go through the local EM people and first responders to provide information to the network? I guess, I’m asking if there could be two way communication back from those receiving information to the people sending it. Like press 1 on your phone if the tornado is near you.

Ron Glaser: Yes. We have seen interest in that at the state and local level. It will be driven by what emergency management is willing to pay for and vendors provide.

Amy Sebring: Perhaps we need some clarification Ron. The general concept currently is to rely on state/local systems to provide the accesss to a backbone operated by the Feds?

Ron Glaser: Exactly! IPAWS is a FEMA-funded enabling capability to provide interoperability of State and Local-funded systems. It is a State and Local responsibility to provide public alert and warning capability that the Federal government cannot over ride except in a declared national emergency.

Amy Sebring: And you are working with FCC for the commercial mobile gateway?

Ron Glaser: Yes. Both FEMA and Sandia have representation on the various FCC working groups and are providing input.

Greg Donarum: Are there (will there be) National Guard units participating in your pilots?

Ron Glaser: We have discussed and I hope so.

Florida EOC: I've heard that FEMA is not planning to continue funding the MyStateUSA/WSI program. True?

Ron Glaser: FEMA has completed the 07 pilot and is looking to the 08 season with a new pilot. The current proposal that FEMA is still looking over calls for the 08 pilot to utilize only existing capability in the states/cities/etc. Those capabilities are of course dependent on whatever the states etc. have contracted for with their resources, including DHS and FEMA grants.

Tony Scott: What role will/does NOAA play in providing infrastructure or information into IPAWS?

Ron Glaser: NOAA is a FEMA partner in IPAWS and we are working with NOAA/NWS.

Ralph Aubry: Will IPAWS accept CAP v1.1 directly or will the CAP message have to be encapsulated in EDXL-DE?

Ron Glaser: The plan is to accept CAP 1.1 except that there are various versions of 1.1. We are looking forward to 2.0.

Amy Sebring: Final question for today. Are you aware of the upcoming Open GIS Consortium demonstration project for core services? [See http://www.govtech.com/gt/244324?topic=117693.] If so, how does that relate to the work at Sandia?

Ron Glaser: We are aware and talking with OGC about how CAP and EDXL-DE will be evaluated. We hope to learn from their experiment/test beds.


Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for today. Thank you very much Ron for an excellent job. We hope you enjoyed the experience. Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements.

We are very pleased to announce THREE new partners today!

Cabell County, WV - Emergency Response Center (911); URL: http://www.ccerc911.org; POC: Steven M. Rutherford, Supervisor. "It is the mission of Cabell County 911 and its employees to contribute to the safety of the public, police, fire and EMS personnel by making diligent, prompt, and accurate responses a priority."

Fire Services Training Institute; URL: http://www.cafsti.org; POC: Michael S. Williams, President-Executive Director. "The primary mission of the Fire Services Training Institute-FSTI is to provide quality training and promote firefighter safety."

The City of Richmond, CA Fire Dept. Office of Emergency Services; URL: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/oes; POC: Kathryn Gerk, CEM, Emergency Services Manager. "RFD OES is the support arm of government that is responsible for gathering data, developing plans and coordinating response capabilities to prepare for, mitigate the hazards, respond to and recover from any major emergency that may impact the City of Richmond."

If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner to show your support, please see the link to Partnership for You from our home page.

Also, if you have not done so already, please check out our RSS feeds for news summaries and emergency management related Webcasts via links on our home page menu. The links to the left of the RSS icons will also take you to archives of the news and Webcast events.

Finally, before we adjourn, please take a moment now, or after you review the transcript to Rate today's session and/or write a review or post your comments. You can access the form either from today's Background Page or from our home page. If you do not have time to write a short review or comment, then please just take a moment to do the rating. It should take less than a minute, and will assist future visitors to our site to find useful information.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. As I mentioned at the beginning, it is very good to be back and we are looking forward to a great 2008! We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Ron for a fine job.