Amber Alert Nuisance in California

amberlogoCalifornia residents were angered last Monday night when the state’s first Amber Alert (issued for two missing children, Hannah and Ethan Anderson, and their alleged kidnapper, James Lee DiMaggio) woke them up with a 10-second-long loud screeching alert sound in the middle of the night.

The new Amber Alert is a digital version of notices on the emergency broadcast system. Since fewer people are dependent on television and radio for information, authorities are using other methods to spread life-threatening, and time-sensitive information.

The alerts are now on by default for many smart phones, and can be loud and startling. This system “relies on broadcast SMS to push notifications to smartphones for weather threats, Amber Alerts and presidential alerts. Many people posted to Twitter complaining of the nuisance, and because the alerts are not interactive, users could not tap the alert to get more information.

Amber Alerts, named in 1996 for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Tex., are issued for abductions that meet specific criteria within each state. California’s Amber Alerts can only be issued if law enforcement believes a victim(s): has been abducted, is 17 years old or younger or has a proven mental or physical disability, is in imminent danger of serious injury or death, and if information that could assist the public is available. The system tries to avoid relative or family abduction alerts.

I must say that I am actually appalled that people would complain about being informed about the well-being of another human life…..really? Have we become so self-centered, and self-involved with our cell phones, that we can’t adjust to a small 10-second alert? Sure there are improvements that need to be made, it’s only been available since December 2012. Being able to access the information, as well as better advertising about what “Amber Alert” is and how it interacts with our phones would be helpful,  but to disable the alert and have no respect for a child’s well-being because the sound woke you up, or you couldn’t access the information is astounding to me.

There is a strong consensus from past abduction cases, that Amber Alerts have been very helpful in rescuing hundreds of children (Click here to see Amber stats). Many good tips have contributed to law enforcement’s success in rescuing abducted children, and the system is only used to help in the most serious cases. I can’t imagine that this alert would happen very often. Monday’s alert was only the third Amber Alert in California in 2013, and the first two were only broadcast to phones in specific counties.

If your child were abducted or in danger, wouldn’t you want to get the word out to everyone imaginable? Have we become so intolerable that we aren’t willing to deal with a small, infrequent inconvenience to help inform the community of information that might save a child’s life? Wow, I’m utterly ashamed.

Come on California, man-up!


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