Washington citizens may have noticed in the last few months receiving AMBER Alerts on their cell phones as "emergency alerts."
Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the Wireless Emergency Alert System was launched nationally by the Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the wireless carrier industry. Users pay no fees for these messages.
This past weekend an AMBER Alert was sent using the system during the early morning hours. Although the alert successfully led to the recovery of the endangered child, the state patrol has received multiple complaints about the timing of the message.
The AMBER Alert system uses geographic locations of cell phone devices for notifications, not cell numbers. Anyone travelling through the area of an AMBER Alert will receive the alert. These alerts are not text messages; instead they are point-to-point messages that are location driven.
The Washington State Patrol oversees the master AMBER Alert plan in Washington State. A state AMBER Alert advisory committee, comprised of key stakeholders, is forming procedures to ensure that the public is only receiving alerts through their cell phones when enough information is known that an alert may significantly increase the chances of locating the child.
It is the patrol's hope that people don't "opt out" of these advisories. The alerts serve a very useful purpose in broadcasting important updates about abducted children. The Washington State Patrol is committed to ensuring the alert system is being used at an appropriate time of day to avoid citizens "opting out" of the program.
Issuing AMBER Alerts have assisted in the successful recovery of more than 640 children from their abductors nationwide. That number includes this past weekend's successful recovery of Brayden Blasius, who had been abducted from the state of Montana. He was located in Fife, Wash., and police there are giving full credit to the AMBER Alert system for the successful recovery.
Three different alerts are issued through the Wireless Emergency Alert System (also known as CMAS, Commercial Mobile Alerting System).
Presidential Alerts - Alerts issued by the President or designee.
Imminent Threat Alerts - Alerts include severe man-made or natural disasters.
AMBER Alerts - Alerts of missing children believed to be in danger.
Users may "opt out" of AMBER Alerts and Imminent Threat Alerts by contacting their wireless carrier or visiting http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/safety/index.cfm/AID/12082 for individual carrier instructions for each device and how to turn it off. Users cannot opt out of Presidential Alerts.