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Wireless AMBER alerts: What are they, and who gets them?

Wireless AMBER alerts: What are they, and who gets them?
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POSTED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 6:27pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 8:01pm

Many people may have received mobile text alerts on their cell phones when an Amber Alert has been issued in their area.

We've heard from many East Texans who want to know more about them.

While AMBER alerts have been around since October of 1996, the mobile alerts have only been around since 2005.

"Prior to January 1, 2013, people had to go to the website to sign up for the alerts," Bob Hoever, Director of Special Programs for the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children tells KETK. "But as of the first of the year, cell phone users with compatable phones are automatically enrolled."

On January 1st, Wireless AMBER alerts program switched to the Wireless EMERGENCY Alerts program, which sends the text alert to compatible phones in the range of the cell phone towers in the area of the abduction, even if the person is from a different area of the country.

"Rather than having to opt in to the alerts, users now must opt out," Hoever says.

The range of the alert is determined by law enforcement.

Once law enforcement notifies them of the AMBER alert, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children sends out the text within 5-10 minutes.

Hoever tells KETK, "When people get the alert, they should find out as much information as they can about the missing child and either call the number on the alert message or notify law enforcement if they can help in any way."

The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children is not a part of the Department of Justice, but they do manage the mobile alerts.

Alerts are also issued for Imminent Threats and Presidential Alerts.

Cell phone users can opt out of the AMBER alerts and the Imminent Threat alerts, but can not opt out of the Presidential alerts.

You can determine if your cell phone is Wireless Emergency Alert compliant by going to www.WirelessAmberAlerts.org.

The website has more information about the program, and how to opt out.

If your mobile phone is not an alert-compatible phone, there are also other methods to receive the AMBER alerts, including through Facebook, MySpace, etc. There is more information about those options on their website as well.

Since the creation of Amber Alerts in 1996, there have been 602 missing children successfully returned home.

You can find out more information about the alerts at the following:

www.AMBERalert.gov

www.missingkids.com/AMBERsignup

Click here for a link to more FAQ's about the wireless alerts.

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