Missing Child Alert System to Change

| December 28, 2012
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The alert system for missing children will change formats on Monday.  Click to hear KMZU’s Sarah Scott speak with Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Tim Hull:

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People with smartphones will now receive messages over the emergency alert system.  The alerts will be for the area a person is in, even if they are traveling in a location away from their state of residence.  Hull says the first three hours are the most critical to getting an abducted child home safely, so the new system will allow more people to be on alert in less time.

Press Release from the Missouri State Highway Patrol

Colonel Ronald Replogle would like to inform the public of a change in how information regarding abducted children will be disseminated.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, The Wireless Foundation, The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, and Syniverse announced the Wireless AMBER Alerts program will end operations effective December 31, 2012, as a part of the nation’s transition to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program. Millions of cell phone users across the country will now receive free, automatic notifications about abducted children in their area as part of the WEA program. CTIA and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer WEA to supplement the existing Emergency Alert System. Consumers with WEA-capable smartphones and feature phones/services are automatically enrolled to receive AMBER alerts for free, along with the Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts.

Unlike Wireless AMBER Alerts, the WEA AMBER Alerts use the latest technology to send messages to wireless customers with WEA-capable devices in the area where a child has been abducted, even if the wireless customer isn’t from the area. For example, if a Chicago resident was visiting Boston and a WEA AMBER Alert was issued in Boston, the subscriber would receive the alert. At the same time, if an alert was issued in Chicago, the subscriber would not receive it while in Boston.

“Since people were increasingly relying on their wireless devices in 2005, it made sense to send a succinct text message to alert users so they would be on the lookout for the kidnapped child and abductor in their area. We are proud to have worked with these entities on this outstanding program and know the WEA AMBER Alerts will be an even better tool to help find
abducted children,” said Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association and president of The Wireless Foundation.

Statistics show that the first three hours after an abduction are the most critical in recovery efforts, and being able to quickly engage the public in the search for an abducted child can help law enforcement bring that child home safely. The Office of Justice Program’s AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert Program, named after nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, is a voluntary partnership among law enforcement agencies, the wireless industry, transportation officials, broadcasters, and other entities to activate an urgent bulletin to find abducted children. Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary is the National AMBER Alert coordinator responsible for this national network.

Before Wireless AMBER Alerts, AMBER Alerts were issued via television, radio, and Department of Transportation highway signs when a child was believed to have been abducted and in extreme danger. The wireless industry launched the Wireless AMBER Alerts program in 2005 because its members believed its technology could expand the Alerts’ reach to aid in the
recovery of abducted children.

The messages will be restricted to 90 characters. Therefore, subscribers will receive a message indicating an AMBER Alert has been issued, vehicle information if available, and to check local media.

The 700,000 wireless customers currently enrolled in Wireless AMBER Alerts will receive text messages about the transition and alternative sources for receiving AMBER Alerts. For more information about the alternative sources please visit http://www.missingkids.com/ambersignup/.

Wireless Emergency Alerts information is available here: http://bit.ly/MTjpsg and AMBER Alerts information is available here: http://ctia.it/RzEVLN.

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