Send Alerts, Save Lives: Propelling Emergency Alerting Further with FEMA

Jayden Huynh-Vuong, WH ’25, Glen Allen, VA

You’re sitting on your couch with a bag of chips (hopefully, kettle-cooked), trying to catch up on your favorite Netflix show, when you hear booming, vehement alarms coming from your phone. It causes you a minor panic attack, and when checking your phone, you learn that it’s an AMBER Alert about a nearby child abduction or an extreme weather alert.

Well, sorry that your blood pressure spiked for a bit, but I’m glad it did because it brought your attention to a time-critical predicament occurring in your vicinity. We can thank the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System for that, having sent 70,000+ emergency alerts in the past ten years to individuals all over the US.  

You’ve probably already guessed, but IPAWS is FEMA’s Alert Warning infrastructure. Over the summer, I had the privilege of assisting the program as a Business Services Intern at their Technical Support Services Facility through CACI International, a government contracting firm. At the National Harbor facility, I learned all about IPAWS technology as well as the dynamics of business within a government contract … and even in this industry, I can assure you that the customer is always right!

Throughout the twelve weeks, I did a mixture of research, writing, and marketing for the program. One of my responsibilities was finding conferences for FEMA IPAWS to attend. After numerous searches, I identified ten conferences throughout the US for them to encourage Alerting Authorities to utilize IPAWS. I then wrote formal requests to FEMA, detailing conference objectives, costs, and other information. As I write this, I’m pleased to announce that eight have been registered for with five of them being new conferences that the program will attend indefinitely.

On a related note, I also organized tours of the TSSF for local conference attendees. This will allow emergency management workers to gain a better understanding of how IPAWS sends out alerts. I worked on planning their first tour for a conference five minutes away, communicating with the event coordinator about logistics and creating marketing material for their various platforms. Excitingly, FEMA IPAWS has invited me to exhibit at the conference with them, so National Harbor will be seeing me again in October 2022.

I also conducted research on equipment and technology for the TSSF such as black desk mats, a Samsung ATSC 3.0 Next Gen TV which includes leading emergency information services, and a video production bag to keep equipment safe on travel.

Lastly, I worked on a myriad of customer deliverables to the government. One of them was the Weekly Status Report, a 15–20-page document that provides FEMA with updates. I supported and revised nine WSRs, by adding new program information and incorporating progress updates from sector managers each week. This helped to bolster my professional communication, as I had to interact with various TSSF personnel, along with my writing and critical thinking skills.

As I reflect on my summer, I realize how rewarding it was to contribute to such a vital mission. I thank my supervisors; Brittany Wiley, Tina Marshall, and Harvey Hauptman; for their unwavering guidance, and Penn Career Services for their generous support for making this experience incredibly enriching. Because of them, I plan to pursue future opportunities in government contracting and public sector consulting.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services