New Amber Alert System Will Be More Efficient in 2013

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COLUMBIA - The current wireless AMBER Alerts program will end December 31st and be replaced with the Wireless Emergency Alerts program or WEA. So, if you have a smart phone that's WEA enabled, starting January 1st you'll get alerts on your phone if a child is abducted in your current city.

If you aren't sure if your phone is WEA enabled you can check the box your phone came in for the WEA logo. Or check with your service provider here.

The old system sent out alerts to subscribers based on zip codes but the new system will send out alerts to every WEA enabled phone based on the nearest cell tower. For example, if you're a Columbia resident visiting Chicago and an alert was sent out in Chicago you would get that alert. 

The Missouri Highway Patrol said the goal of the changes is to get the alert out as fast as possible because the first 3 hours after abduction are the most crucial.

The alert will be limited to 90 characters. The message will include that an AMBER Alert has been issued, vehicle information and will advise to check local media for more information.

Before an amber alert is issued authorities must confirm:

  • The child has been abducted
  • The child is in danger of harm or death
  • The child is 17 years old or under
  • There must be a description of the abductor and/or their vehicle

In addition to the AMBER Alerts, the new WEA system will also send out imminent threat alerts for disasters and presidential alerts for national security emergencies.

You can also sign up to get AMBER Alerts through social media by clicking here.