The coalition of groups and government agencies that brought us Wireless AMBER Alerts announced today that the program will be ending at the end of the year. AMBER Alerts, as most you already know, aim to alert the public to recent abductions in an effort to get kidnapped children home safely as quickly as possible. Never fear though, as Wireless AMBER Alerts aren’t going away, they’re just being rolled into a new program called Wireless Emergency Alerts, which was launched earlier this year.
With the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, those who sign up will get locally-relevant alerts about abductions on top of “Presidential and Imminent threat alerts.” Rolled out by CTIA, the FCC, and FEMA, WEA offers one particularly useful improvement over WAA. Those who are signed up to receive WEA will get AMBER Alerts for the area they’re presently in, regardless of whether or not they live in that area.
The announcement gives an example of someone from Chicago who is visiting Boston. If that person is signed up to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts and an abduction happens in Boston, they’ll get the alert despite the fact that they’re normally in Chicago. On the flip side, alerts for abductions that occur in Chicago while this person is in Boston won’t be sent to their phone.
So, mobile AMBER Alerts aren’t going away, they’re just being rolled into a more comprehensive alert system. The Wireless AMBER Alert system is scheduled to go dark on December 31, 2012 after running since 2005. We’ll likely hear more about this shut down as we get closer to December 31, so stay tuned.