Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) sent out the following letter this afternoon regarding the recent Amber Alert that was sent out via cell phone. Its a short read and explains how Amber Alerts are now on cell phones along with an opt out option by contacting your cell phone provider.
Here is his letter.
Assemblymember Frazier about the recent Amber Alert
On Monday night (August 5th) at roughly 11:30pm, and again on Tuesday morning (August 6th) at approximately 9:20am, cellphones across California came alive with a distinct vibration and alarm signaling people to an Amber Alert that had been issued. In response, many people have raised questions about this platform and their phone’s capabilities.
Currently, disaster-related information can be communicated to the public via three main avenues:
- The state and federal Emergency Alert System (with messages broadcast via television and radio);
- County-based “reverse 9-1-1” systems in which pre-recorded messages are distributed to people’s homes via a “land line” or hard line telephone system; and
- Public posting of relevant information on websites and other social media platforms.
Less than half of American households maintain traditional “land line” phone service in 2013. With this in mind, hundreds of discussions have been had by emergency managers and policy makers regarding the ability (or lack thereof) to appropriately communicate information to the public before, during, and after disasters.
This Amber Alert was issued as part of a new technology called Wireless Emergency Alerts – a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and all of the country’s wireless providers. WEA was established pursuant to 2006’s Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act which established a federally-funded national emergency alert system as envisioned by President George W. Bush’s July 26, 2006 Executive Order on Public Alert and Warning Systems. It enables an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people in situations or war, terrorist attack, natural disaster or other hazards to public safety and well-being.
Under WEA, all new phones come equipped with an alert microchip pre-installed (voluntarily included upon agreement by all major cell phone manufacturers). Anyone who purchased a phone since the end of 2012 (with some providers having rolled this technology out sooner) has the ability to receive alerts issued from FEMA and local emergency managers via WEA. According to the WARN Act, four different types of alerts can be issued:
- A Presidential Alert (no opt-out option for consumers)
- An Extreme Alert
- A Severe Alert
- An Amber Alert
- A Monthly Test
It bears mentioning that as this program expands further, WEA will be used in conjunction with “reverse 9-1-1” technologies and other standard communications as a way to maximize outreach.
For those interested in opting-out of these alerts, or Amber Alerts in particular, they are encouraged to contact their wireless provider for instructions.