DPS to deploy Wireless Emergency Alert to cell phones due to AMBER Alert
This will be the third public deployment of the wireless emergency alert for an AMBER Alert since April
This morning, the Utah Department of Public Safety will send a statewide wireless emergency alert to mobile devices due to an AMBER Alert that was issued this morning in Cedar City.
The alert will feature the following text:
Cedar City PD: Non family abduction. Suspect is Emily Luciano who is 5 feet 10 inches, 200 pounds, brown hair. She was last driving a Black Toyota Camry, license plate F299SF. Infant victim is Peyton Everett Caraballo-Winston. He is 5 months old, blonde hair, blue eyes. https://alert.utah.gov
FAQs and known concerns
What areas are going to be alerted?
This alert will be sent to mobile device users statewide.
Who will receive the alert?
The alert is intended to go to anyone in Utah with a WEA-capable mobile phone. Because the technology for sending the alert is not perfect and not all phones have the same alerting protocols built in, some people may not receive the alert.
How does DPS decide to send an alert as a wireless emergency alert?
Since April, we have been working to refine the AMBER Alert process and when those alerts are pushed to mobile devices. We made a number of improvements to our alert originating software. We are still working through the policies about timing to send these alerts, because they are surprising to residents.
Currently, the decision to send an alert to mobile devices is made on a case-by-case basis and requires approval of the Department of Public Safety.
We want to make sure that we are sending alerts with information that will allow the public to take action.
How long will the alert be active?
The alert will become active at 7:45 am on Saturday, November 7, 2020, and will remain active for 15 minutes. This is meant to limit the numbers of people who receive the alert multiple times. Some mobile device users may experience receiving the message multiple times. This is outside of our control, and has to do whether a specific phone recognizes that it has already displayed the alert.
What do I do if I receive the alert?
Some phones can only display a 90 character message while others can display a 360 character message. We include a website link to alert.utah.gov so that people can access more complete information if their phone can only receive the shorter message.
If you’d like to participate in our survey to measure the effectiveness and reach of the alert, please take our survey here: https://forms.gle/n7nTydv74XnPvAeG7
What if I didn’t receive the alert on my phone?
There are a number of reasons this can happen and they are outside of the State’s control.
- You may have opted out of receiving government alerts.
- Your phone may not be capable of receiving the alerts or the full message. Verizon has a list of WEA-capable phones here and the level of WEA capability they have. Most carriers have the same list of phones
- Your carrier may not have sent the alert appropriately.
- You may have been out of range of a cell phone tower that was broadcasting the alert.
- Your nearest cell phone tower may not have correctly transmitted the alert.
- You may have been using a significant amount of data or been on a phone call at the time and the alert did not interrupt that data stream.
- Your phone may have been off.
- Help us provide feedback to the FCC by taking our survey here: https://forms.gle/n7nTydv74XnPvAeG7
How accurate is the targeting of these messages?
Because the technology is not perfect, sometimes people who are miles away from an intended area may receive the alert. Sometimes people may not receive an alert. We tend to have a problem in Utah with Verizon phones not receiving these alerts. Help us provide feedback to the FCC by taking our survey here: https://forms.gle/n7nTydv74XnPvAeG7
What will the alert sound like?
Phones that are WEA-capable will make unique tones and vibrations that may be similar to the Emergency Alert System tests seen on TV. If your phone is on silent, you will not hear the tones.
What is it for?
AMBER Alerts are serious alerts, because they mean that a child is in danger. They are issued when local public safety agencies believe that the public can help with the safe recovery of the child.
What data does DPS have about phone users?
The State of Utah receives no data about the cell phone owners who receive this message. WEAs are sent using cell broadcast technology, which pushes information to cell phone towers in an area we choose, delivers the information to cell phones in range and does not report back how many users receive the message.
All cell phone users who received the message remain anonymous to us.
What if I have questions?
If the public have questions, they should visit alert.utah.gov.
To provide feedback on the quality of the alert, please fill out our survey here.