Local News

System sends Amber Alerts as cellphone texts

Posted September 6, 2013

— The Amber Alert system is designed to get everyone's attention when a child could be in danger, so officials have started sending the alerts directly to cellphones to cut through the clutter of messages on computers and televisions.

"When we issue an Amber Alert on a child, time is so critical," said Nona Best, supervisor for the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons.

Last week, the center issued its first statewide alert via cellphone when 1-year-old Shylin Neal disappeared from a Food Lion parking lot in High Point. She had been sleeping inside an SUV that was stolen.

Best said cellphone alerts have gone out previously but only on a regional basis. In the High Point case, she said, the girl was with a stranger, and authorities had no idea where they were headed.

"We don't want to wake somebody up in Charlotte for an Amber Alert that's in Wilmington, especially if we think it's still local," she said.

About eight hours later, the girl was found unharmed, and the Amber Alert was canceled.

The Amber Alerts are part of the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system, which started this year. The system also includes weather alerts and presidential alerts.

Amber Alert text message Text alerts get message out quickly, officials say

Raleigh residents said that the text alerts are worth the trouble, even if they come in the middle of the night like last week's alert.

"I think it's great that you get a text message in case you see something and you can help out the public," Kareem Sea said.

"Think about it, just because it originates in High Point, it only takes several hours to get to Raleigh," Christina Hayes said.

People who don't want to receive the alert system can opt out by contacting their cell service provider, Best said, adding that presidential alerts cannot be canceled.

7 Comments

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  • OpinionatedMama Sep 9, 1:27 p.m.

    This is ridiculous to send these in the middle of the night!!!

  • rrfan Sep 9, 12:44 p.m.

    For the pay as you go person the alerts do not charge. I keep mine turned on. I'm not going to ignore a child in danger. If the parent was neglectful that's still not the child's fault.

  • archmaker Sep 9, 8:59 a.m.

    i turned mine off after the last one. sorry for the next kid, but it was a bad call waking up the entire state in the middle of the night.

    and to find out that it was all because someone who was not even a parent or legal guardian left an 18 month old in a running car late at night while they cruised down the aisles of a grocery store???

  • 37 Sep 6, 7:52 p.m.

    On many phones, you can turn this off. That hurts, but since most of these alerts are due to parental neglect, I don't feel too badly about that.

  • sww Sep 6, 7:29 p.m.

    I have a pay as you go phone. I don't want to be charged for these. Who came up with this idea?

  • Kegger Sep 6, 5:03 p.m.

    I understand the purpose but it is annoying when it is constant. As long as they don’t do the same as they do on the TV every few minutes high pitch sound waking everyone up in the house

  • Obamacare for everyone Sep 6, 4:34 p.m.

    Much better idea since mobile devices make more sense and most people carry smart phones with them at all times. If they can embed a photo of the child within the text, it would make the system much more effective.