AMBER Alert texts startle many in the Bay Area

August 6, 2013 12:14:05 PM PDT
The use of technology in emergency alerts has gone to a new level. It's part of a national program rolled out by the Federal Emergency Management Association earlier this year.

Caltrans signs are still very useful for AMBER Alerts to let drivers know about a suspect's vehicle, but a new program is reaching people everywhere through their cellphones -- whether they like it or not.

A text message about two missing kids near San Diego came late last night in the Bay Area when the AMBER Alert was expanded statewide. Phones lit up with a noise some described as a fire alarm -- scaring many people sleeping in bed.

CHP Twitter pages were hit with so many questions and concerns they tweeted a link to explain what the alert was about.

"I woke up to my phone, it rang. I checked -- I was so sleepy I looked over and it said 'AMBER Alert' and I was like, "what?" Who sent this to me because I honestly don't remember signing up for any of these alerts," said Amanda Nguyen of San Jose.

Many people didn't sign up for the Wireless Emergency Alert program that started at the beginning of the year and is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Basically, if you own a phone capable of receiving these alerts and you are in the area where an alert has been issued -- you will get it.

"I had no idea that they were sending it to my iPhone until I got it," said Mike Anderson of San Jose.

It's not just AMBER Alerts hitting your phone -- a president can use the Wireless Emergency Alert program to send you a message and government agencies can also let you know of an imminent threat in your area like extreme weather or a chemical spill. Most cellphone companies don't charge for these alerts.

Some people ABC7 News spoke with today said in theory -- it sounded like a good program, but they reported some trouble with it -- saying the alert disappeared when they tried to find it on their phone, or there was a lack of helpful information or links.

"I don't really know what happened, it just said there was an AMBER Alert and they gave me a car. It said there was a Nissan or something like that and then it went away," said Anderson.


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