In California statewide surprise over the startling late evening, August 5th, arrival of the state’s first successful cell phone amber alert is lingering. But, while some recipients did not appreciate the alert alarm, described at various times as loud, startling, and even scary, other residents appreciate the need for such an advisory.
Following the alert, which stated the details of a car possibly transporting two kidnapped San Diego children out of state, more than 100,000 people used Google to search for information on the children, inundating concerned agencies with phone calls.
The Amber Alert is part of a little known program that began early this year by the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The system works by using local cell towers to send out alerts to any phone that is running the WEA program and was recently heralded as the reason an 8-year-old Ohio boy was safely recovered.
Amber Alerts regarding children must meet criteria that include a minor child who is in immediate danger and have vehicle information, such as make, model, and license plate number.
Newer smartphones will now have the delivery system built-in; however, users who don’t want to receive the messages, which may also carry terrorism and severe weather alerts, can choose to opt-out.
David Pinder is a Senior Politics Reporter at Buffalo Morning Star covering state and national politics, and he is a grantee with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Before joining Buffalo Morning Star, he worked as a researcher and writer for the Institute for Northern Studies at Ohio State University and as a freelance journalist in Alaska, having been published by over dozens of outlets including NPR, the Center for Media and Yahoo.