FEMA plans new emergency alert system

FEMA is looking to build a public alert system that can use multiple channels of communications that can have a reach beyond traditional radio and television alerts.

The agency’s request for information is looking for information on available products and services as FEMA develops contracts under the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System – Open Platform for Emergency Networks, which goes by the acronym IPAWS-OPEN.

FEMA is interested in commercial products, government off-the-shelf technology and custom software development. It also interested in data center hosting and cloud services, according to the RFI.

The agency said it has two goals: One, determine if mature commercial software solutions can replace its current custom built application, and two, commercial hosting solutions that will have a 99.99 percent uptime.

The government is trying to address gaps in the alert system that were exposed during a string of tornadoes in 2011, which highlighted the need for new ways to alert people. FEMA is interested in technologies involving cell phones, digital broadcasting, internet connections, smart appliances, social media and other emerging technologies.

The system also has to work with a variety of local, state, tribal and federal government agencies that are involved in disaster response. The system needs to be flexible and responsive, FEMA said.

The RFI includes 25 detailed questions that FEMA wants addressed, including security questions, interoperability issues and application development and deployment issues.

Responses are due March 3.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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