Wireless Emergency Alert program sends first statewide Amber Alert

August 6, 2013 2:29:48 PM PDT
The manhunt continued Tuesday for the man suspected of kidnapping at least one of two missing children, killing their mother and setting fire to a home in Southern California. Police say Hannah Anderson, 16, and Ethan Anderson, 8, were abducted from San Diego County on Sunday. They believe the man, James DiMaggio, is the kidnapper.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued Monday night. It was a first for many in the Central Valley as the emergency alert was transmitted to their cell phones.

The high-pitched sound caught many cell phone users by surprise.

"It just sounded like a buzzing noise on my phone, like an alarm," said Andrea Garvey of Kerman. She was one of countless of Californians who heard the statewide Amber Alert coming from her cell phone. "I was just surprised to hear my couch buzzing at me," said Garvey.

The alert was sent out just after 10 p.m. Monday night when authorities determined a murder suspect out of San Diego County could be on his way to Texas or Canada with two abducted children. The notification was the first statewide Amber Alert text message through the national Wireless Emergency Alert program that went into effect at the beginning of the year.

"When children are abducted, time is of the essence. And the sooner you can get those children back, the higher the probability they're going to get back without being harmed," said Sgt. Ron DeChamplain with the California Highway Patrol.

The message is automatically sent to all newer cellphone models based on the emergency's proximity to each user. It's completely free. People don't have to sign up for it but they can opt out. But law enforcement hopes the public uses the emergency tool to help them in dire situations where seconds matter.

"If you have the opportunity to help recover an abducted child, how big of an inconvenience is it to you to get this message," said DeChamplain.

If you want to opt out of the emergency alerts, you can contact your cellular service provider or simply change the settings on your phone.


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