The Blaring Alert Was Part Of A Government Notification Program

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police issued an AMBER Alert for a missing child on Tuesday night that was not delivered to many phones until 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

The blaring alert sounded on millions of cellphones and startled New Yorkers who were fast asleep.

“It scared me to death, it freaked me out,” Midtown resident Robert Mitchell told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider on Wednesday.

Many New Yorkers sleep with their cellphones next to their heads and were jolted awake by the early morning text message that described the tan 1995 Lexus that police were looking for in connection with an alleged abduction.

“I think it was not effective. I didn’t know what was going on,” Mitchell said. “It was disorienting. I don’t know if I could have done anything to help that situation at that hour in my apartment.”

The complaint has echoed around New York as more people learn about the “Wireless Emergency Alerts” program. The program goes into effect for AMBER Alerts, which are used when children are abducted or missing, and for other important government notifications.

“It is designed to give emergency information to people on their phones because it’s something that they always have with them,” technology writer Arik Hesseldahl said.

AMBER Alerts are issued on most cellphones that were bought after 2011, but the notifications can be turned off in the phone’s settings feature. If you are still having trouble, you can visit the NYAlerts website for further instruction.

“You can shut them off with the exception of certain emergency alerts that are personally ordered by the President,” Hesseldahl explained.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that the alert sounds at any time of the day. Not everyone is bothered by the notifications.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Philadelphia resident Talia Nassim. “I think everyone needs to be aware of what’s going on.”

Wireless text alerts can support a maximum of 90 characters. Police often wait until they have vehicle information before issuing an AMBER Alert.

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