Washington - May 14, 2008 - The Homeland Security Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security, heard from witnesses to provide an update on the status of the process to update the nation's emergency warning system. Retired Maj. Gen. Martha T. Rainville, assistant administrator of national continuity programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was one of the witnesses at the hearing.
Rainville noted that the current alerting technology is more than 15 years old. "Through [the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System], FEMA and our partners are transforming the alert system from an audio-only signal sent over radio and television to one that can support audio, video, text and data alert messages sent to residential telephones, to websites, pagers, e-mails and to cell phones," said Rainville in her opening comments. "The mission of the IPAWS program is simply to send one message over more channels to more people at all times and places."
This summer, FEMA plans to rollout the first element of IPAWS, called the Digital Emergency Alert System, in eight states and Puerto Rico. Rainville also noted that FEMA will increase the number of Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations from 36 to 63. The PEP stations provide the backbone structure for FEMA to send a presidential alert to the public. Rainville says that this move will increase the agency's reach to 85 percent of the American people directly, up from the current 70 percent.
Radio magazine has condensed the key portions of Rainville's comments in a podcast.