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Amber Alerts on cellphones: A closer look

August 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many people may have gotten an Amber Alert notification on their phones Monday night in the form of a high-pitched, 10-second tone. That's because as of Jan. 1, a new Wireless Emergency Alert system began sending out Amber Alerts to cellphones.

The alert came around 11 p.m. telling people about the abduction of two children in the San Diego area.

"I was a little confused, wasn't sure what it was," said Esther Berg of San Francisco.

It was the first time a statewide alert has gone out over wireless devices. According the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the Amber Alert went out to people in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Texas, because the suspect was believed to be heading to either Canada or Texas.

Bob Hover from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is in charge of sending the Amber Alerts out.

"Somebody out there knows something," said Hover. "The more eyes and ears searching for a child in a critically dangerous situation are way better and far outweigh the eyes and ears of just a couple."

If you don't want the alert system on, it is easy to turn off. On an iPhone, you just go to settings, notifications, and then turn off "Amber Alert." But emergency officials urge you not to turn it off because they say it could save lives.

"We feel that it's an important system. It's going to save lives and protect property, so we don't really want people opt out. People should have a little bit of patience while we're getting the kinks worked out," said Chris Ipsen with the Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center.

You can also sign up for an emergency alert system that will let you know when there is something affecting your geographic area.

"The issue with the texting and the WEA, Wireless Emergency Alerts, is we're going off cell towers, so we may get some crossover into areas that may not need to get that alert, as opposed to Alert LA County, the mass notification system, we're going to be very precise with our messaging," said Ipsen.

Though many have complained about the inconvenience, some people whose phones went off Monday night said they felt the Amber Alert was important.

"They must not have any children, the ones who were annoyed, because anything that goes on with a child, it doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, I think we all should be alerted so we can be on the watch out," said Chairmaine Hall of Tehachapi.


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