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Amber and Other Cell Phone Alerts

Many Eugene residents received a unified jolt yesterday as the first Amber Alert issued through a cell phone notification went out across the state.

Introduced as a partnership between a the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the program now broadcasts Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on compatible phones. The program went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, and most newer phones have the WEA function.

If your phone is enabled for the new program, you may receive one of three of the unusually loud notifications: President, imminent threats and Amber Alerts. To differentiate from other alerts, some phones flashed light and vibrated in addition to the loud tone.

Social media reactions varied greatly, with some on Twitter and Facebook supporting the idea as a good use of newer technologies, while others felt it was intrusive and unnecessary. Alerts also went out on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Emergency alerts and Amber Alerts can be turned off, presidential alerts cannot.

The alert was issued for a 16-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy believed to have been abducted by California resident John DiMaggio. The alert went out in California on Aug 5., after the children’s mother’s body was found in a burned down house belonging to DiMaggio in San Diego. The alert asked citizens to look out for a blue 2013 Nissan Versa. The search was extended to Oregon and Washington on Aug. 7. 

The Amber Alert system is a “voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child,” according to amberalert.gov.