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Overnight Amber Alert cellphone calls halted

Wire • Mar 18, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Some Ohioans were none too happy to be awakened about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday by a loud tone from their cellphones alerting them to a child abduction.

Partly because of that, the Ohio Amber Alert Steering Committee announced yesterday that it will not send out alerts to cellphones between midnight and 6 a.m., at least for the time being.

The alert on Tuesday resulted in “considerable grumbling” in the form of complaints to the State Highway Patrol and the attorney general’s office, Lt. Anne Ralston, patrol spokeswoman, said yesterday.

The statewide alert that a 16-year-old girl and her 7-month-old daughter had been abducted in West Virginia by the teen’s stepfather was sent to cellphones in Ohio that had been enabled to receive such alerts. Phones that are part of the Wireless Emergency Alert program receive the notifications automatically. Other phones can be set to receive the alerts.

The man was arrested, and the girls were safely recovered in West Virginia around 9 a.m. Tuesday. The alert had been extended into Ohio because of reports that the man’s car had been seen crossing into Ohio.

Some other states don’t issue Amber Alerts during hours when most people are not on the road to help look for vehicles and missing children, Ralston said. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children also generally doesn’t send alerts until after 6 a.m.

The primary alert about the West Virginia abductions — notices to police, the news media and interstate message boards — had been issued around 11 p.m. Monday. Those agencies will still be notified at all hours.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, following its general protocol, did not send out the secondary alert to cellphones in Ohio until about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ralston said.

Ohio will study the ramifications of time limits before setting permanent hours when messages will not be sent, she said.

Phones can receive messages about abductions and extreme-weather emergencies as part of a program involving national cellphone carriers.

Cellphone users can opt out of the messages by changing the settings on their phone, or by contacting their carriers if they are automatically enrolled. Law-enforcement officials urge Ohioans not to disable the alerts so the cellphone users can help in trying to locate missing and abducted children.


By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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