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City of Boulder launches new emergency alert system

Integrated Public Alert Warnings will allow city officials to reach cellphones in specific areas.

BOULDER, Colo. — The City of Boulder announced Monday the launch of an emergency alert system that can send messages to cellphones in specific areas, similar to an Amber Alert.

The new system, established by FEMA, is called Integrated Public Alert Warnings (IPAWS), including Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). They don't require users to opt in or subscribe to the service.

The City of Aurora also recently announced that it will be ready to use IPAWS by the end of this month. Both Aurora and Boulder still encouraged residents to sign up for their county's opt-in mass notification systems.

For Boulder County, that's Everbridge. A phone owner needs to opt-in and request alerts by a specific address. Everbridge allows for more targeted and accurate emergency alerts, the city said.

RELATED: Aurora tries new method to send emergency alerts

IPAWS will allow officials to reach out-of-town visitors, people experiencing homelessness and people who are outside of their opt-in addresses in an emergency situation, according to the city.

In Boulder, Wireless Emergency Alerts can be activated by a group led by the 911 Communications manager with input from Public Safety PIOs and other communications staff.

The city said that some older phone models might receive a truncated message of 90 characters, while newer phones can receive up to 360 characters.

In the Marshall Fire, many people didn't get an emergency alert to evacuate. A lot of people affected by the fire asked by Boulder County didn't use an emergency alert system like IPAWS.

Emergency management organizations have to apply to FEMA to use the system. Boulder County was approved to use IPAWS in August 2019 but wasn't able to get it up and running before the Marshall Fire.

RELATED: Boulder County was approved to use cell phone alert system in 2019, but never finished setting it up

RELATED: How to sign up for your county's emergency alerts

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