State Police Will Now Send AMBER Alerts to All Cell Phones in Warning Area

AMBER Alerts are notifications sent by Maryland State Police when they believe that a child has been abducted. Minutes count in child abduction cases, so the notices go to tv, radio and billboards. Now AMBER Alerts will be sent to every Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)-compliant cell phone in the area of the alert, according to a news release from Maryland State Police on Thursday.

AMBER alerts, also known as Child Abduction Emergency (CAE) alerts, are bulletins issued when police believe a child has been abducted. AMBER is officially an acronym for America’s Missing Broadcasting Emergency Response.

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You may have seen AMBER alerts on television or on the overhead signs along Route 50. These same reports will come to your phone. The change in policy for Maryland State Police will begin immediately.

In a study, the U.S. Justice Department determined that law enforcement needs to act quickly in investigating reports of missing children because research has found that:

  • in 76 percent of child murder cases, the child was killed within 3 hours of the abduction;
  • 89 percent of the time, the child died within 24 hours of disappearing;
  • In two-thirds of the cases, parents or caregivers took more than two hours to report the missing child to police;
  • the primary motive for abduction is sexual assault.

The alerts were originally named for a nine-year-old Texas girl who was taken and murdered in 1996. From 2002 until 2013, 33 AMBER Alerts have been issued by Maryland State Police. The new alert system will not be used for Silver alerts.

Alerts are typically distributed by radio stations, internet, satellite radio, TV stations, cable TV, e-mail, billboards and via Google and Facebook in certain areas.

For some, the new cellphone alerts are nothing new. Maryland State Police have been sending alerts to those who signed up to receive them on the MSP website. Now the alerts will go to anyone in the geographic area where the alert is issued. The new alerts will use a loud tone, similar to the emergency broadcasting system messages on radio and television. If your phone is on silent or quiet setting, the alerts won’t be audible.

The system will then send a 90-character text message. If you travel outside of Maryland, you will continue to receive alerts issued in the area you visit.

The Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the CTIA, the Wireless Association helped to develop the Commercial Mobile Alert System to notify the public of certain emergencies, including this new AMBERT Alert system.

Nationwide, AMBER alerts have resulted in the safe recovery of 602 children, the media release said. If you wish to opt-out of the alerts, you can shut them off from the “Alert” or “Notifications” section of your mobile phone settings.

Following is a list of Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)-compatible cell phones that will receive the messages:


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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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