1. Help
  2. IPAWS
  3. Best Practices and Tips

IPAWS Symbology and Event Codes

This article explains what each of the various symbols and event codes are, and how they are used within IPAWS.

Symbology & Alert Event types & what they mean:


Administrative Message – A non-emergency message that provides updated information about an event in progress, an event that has expired or concluded early pre-event preparation or mitigation activities, post-event recovery operations, or other administrative matters pertaining to the Emergency Alert System.


Child Abduction Emergency/AMBER Alert – An emergency message, based on established criteria, about a missing child believed to be abducted. A local or state law enforcement agency investigating the abduction will describe the missing child, provide a description of the suspect or vehicle, and ask the public to notify the requesting agency if they have any information on the whereabouts of the child or suspect.


Earthquake Warning – A warning of current or imminent earthquake activity. Authorized officials may recommend or order protective actions according to a state law or local ordinance.


Civil Danger Warning – A warning of an event that presents a danger to a significant civilian population. The CDW, which usually warns of a specific hazard and gives specific protective action, has a higher priority than the Local Area Emergency (LAE). Examples include contaminated water supply and imminent or in-progress military or terrorist attacks.  Public protective actions could include evacuation, shelter in place, or other actions (such as boiling contaminated water or seeking medical treatment).


Civil Emergency Message – An emergency message regarding an in-progress or imminent significant threat(s) to public safety and/or property. The CEM is a higher priority message than the Local Area  Emergency (LAE), but the hazard is less specific than the Civil Danger Warning (CDW). For example, the CEM could be used to describe a change in the Homeland Security Alert System level in response to a terrorist threat.


Immediate Evacuation – A warning where immediate evacuation is recommended or ordered according to a state law or local ordinance. As an example, authorized officials may recommend the evacuation of affected areas due to an approaching tropical cyclone. In the event a  flammable or explosive gas is released, authorized officials may recommend evacuation of designated areas where casualties or property damage from a vapor cloud explosion or fire may occur.


Fire Warning – A warning of a spreading wildfire or structural fire that threatens a populated area. Evacuation of areas in the fire’s path may be recommended by authorized officials according to a state law or local ordinance.


Hazardous Materials Warning - A warning of a release of nonradioactive hazardous material (such as flammable gas, toxic chemical,  or biological agent) that may recommend evacuation (for an explosion,  fire, or oil spill hazard) or shelter in place (for a toxic fume hazard).


Law Enforcement Warning - A warning of a bomb explosion, riot, or other criminal events (e.g. a jailbreak). An authorized law enforcement agency may blockade roads, waterways, or facilities, evacuate or deny access to affected areas, and arrest violators or suspicious persons.


Local Area Emergency - An emergency message that defines an event that by itself does not pose a significant threat to public safety and/or property. However, the event could escalate, contribute to other more serious events, or disrupt critical public safety services. Instructions, other than public protective actions, may be provided by authorized officials. Examples include: a disruption in water, electric or natural gas service; road closures due to excessive snowfall; a potential terrorist threat where the public is asked to remain alert.


Radiological Hazard Warning - A warning of the loss, discovery, or release of radiological material. Examples include: the theft of a radioactive isotope used for medical, seismic, or other purposes; the discovery of radioactive materials; a transportation (aircraft, truck or rail,  etc.) accident that may involve nuclear weapons, nuclear fuel, or radioactive wastes. Authorized officials may recommend protective actions to be taken if a radioactive hazard is discovered.


Shelter in Place Warning - A warning of an event where the public is recommended to shelter in place (go inside, close doors and windows,  turn off air conditioning or heating systems, and turn on the radio or TV  for more information). An example is the release of hazardous materials where toxic fumes or radioactivity may affect designated areas.


911 Telephone Outage Emergency - An emergency message that defines a local or state 911 telephone network outage by geographic area or telephone exchange. Authorized officials may provide alternate phone  numbers with which to reach 911 or dispatch personnel


Volcano Warning – A warning of current or imminent volcanic activity.  Authorized officials may recommend or order protective actions according to a state law or local ordinance.