A statewide AMBER Alert sent by cell phone came as a surprise to millions of Californians this week. While some found the loud "buzz" of the alert jarring, many others feel law enforcement agencies made the right call.
An AMBER Alert was issued about 11 p.m. Monday, after two children were allegedly kidnapped by a man from their home near San Diego. Neither the children nor their alleged kidnapper have yet been found.
The alert went out statewide as part of a new national AMBER Alert system that's automatically active on most cell phones. Monday's alert was the first statewide use of the system in California, San Francisco's KPIX-TV reports.
What Are AMBER Alerts?
So what exactly is an AMBER alert?
AMBER alerts are named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and killed in 1996. The letters AMBER also stand for "America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response."
These new AMBER Alert cell phone notifications are a type of wireless emergency alert -- essentially, emergency messages authorized by the government and sent to your phone. They're intended for situations like tornado warnings and, in the case of AMBER Alerts, alleged child abductions.
Managing Your AMBER Alerts
There is no doubt that AMBER alerts are implemented for the worthwhile cause of catching criminals and preventing child abduction and other serious crimes. However, some in California found the late-night cell phone alert disruptive and almost frightening.
All newer models of cell phones, by default, are programmed to receive AMBER Alerts. This includes virtually all smartphones, which a large bulk of phone users now carry.
However, there is an opt-out option, as the Los Angeles Times explains. Simply check your phone's settings, and there should be an option to set your phone's status for receiving emergency alerts.