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Costa Mesa Police Department
Wednesday August 7th, 2013 :: 10:00 a.m. PDT


Are you wondering why you received an emergency alert on your cell phone recently? Others are and we have the answer

IPAWS – Integrated Public Alert/Warning System

After Hurricane Katrina, at Presidential direction, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA created IPAWS – the Integrated Public Alert/Warning System. Its purpose was to create a broadcast system which combined, or integrated, other similar systems into one, making notifications more streamlined.

Public Alert/Warning System
EAS – Emergency Alert System
WEA – Wireless Emergency Alerts
CMAS – Commercial Mobile Alert System

Most cell phones are currently compatible and come pre-programmed with IPAWS based on an agreement made with the larger wireless carriers. You have the option, however, of opting out of this application. The primary user of this system is the National Weather Service who sends out safety warnings of impending severe weather conditions. When an alert is sent, your phone automatically sounds with the alert tone similar to that which comes across the TV and radio when an alert is made.

The first CMAS/WEA Amber Alert was sent in December of 2012 in the state of Minnesota. The transition had been made from “Wireless Amber” to “Wireless Emergency Alert”. It was designed to be sent and cover the area of a particular cell phone tower(s). This allows for alerts to be sent based on where the phone is located and not a user’s home address. As such weather warnings and Amber Alerts are received by phone users who are physically in the area of the warning/alert.

In the last few days most of us likely received one of our first mobile Amber Alerts. It was sent via text from CMAS/WEA and you received it based on your location in relation to the Amber Alert’s origin. (After the initial information was provided, you were given the option by CMAS/WEA to discontinue receiving any further alerts.)

Time is of the essence in situations involving the kidnapping of a child or impending severe weather. The new method of alerting appeared to be somewhat successful in regards to the sounding of a June 2013 Amber Alert originating from Placentia PD. Within minutes, the Costa Mesa Dispatch Center received a call from a motorist with a possible sighting of the suspect vehicle in the area of the 405 Freeway and South Coast Drive. Although not the correct vehicle, the expediency of getting the word out was amazing.

For more information in regards to the specifics of Wireless Emergency Alerts, visit or

Costa Mesa Police Department
99 Fair Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 714-754-5252

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