May 07, 2010
Wireless AMBER Alert FAQs
How do I sign up for Wireless AMBER Alerts?
Subscribing to Wireless AMBER Alerts is easy: simply go to www.wirelessamberalerts.org and follow the steps there to enroll. Alternatively, Nextel subscribers may visit www.nextel.com/amber and follow the instructions to add the service. Please note that you must be an account administrator (responsible for your company's wireless bill) to add this service. If you are not, and wish to add this service, please contact your account administrator to do so. Once subscribed, you'll receive a free confirmation message on your handset to let you know everything is up and running.
How does the AMBER Alert Plan work?
By design, law enforcement initiates the primary emergency AMBER notification, defines the geographic boundaries of the alert notification, and has the legal jurisdictionâ€”through the child's entry into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)â€”to act upon the information contained in an AMBER Alert.
The NCMEC has established a nationwide clearinghouse for AMBER Alerts and when verified will send the alert to Sprint's vendor, Syniverse Technologies. Syniverse identifies the Sprint customers who have requested to receive AMBER Alerts in the geographic area designated by local law enforcement and sends the alert as a text message to these subscribers.
Under what conditions will the NCMEC forward an AMBER Alert to Sprint customers?
AMBER Alerts are initiated by local law enforcement. NCMEC will confirm that all DOJ's AMBER Alert criteria are met prior to sending alerts to Sprint customers. These criteria include:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that abduction has occurred.
- The abduction is of a child age 17 years or younger.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The child's name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center.
How many AMBER Alerts will I get?
Approximately 200-250 AMBER Alerts are issued nationwide each year. You will only receive an AMBER Alert if it is targeted by law enforcement in the locations you designated.
Historically, a location can go days, weeks, or months between AMBER Alerts. If you do not receive a message for a long period of time, it's likely because no alert had been issued.
How will I know where to call if I receive an AMBER Alert and see the child?
The AMBER Alert itself will include a phone number to call if you have information. In some states that number will be 911; in others it will be a local number. Do not call Sprint with information! Call the number in the alert.
Will I get notification on my wireless phone when a child for whom an AMBER Alert was issued has been found?
AMBER Alerts are issued as a call-to-action to help locate an abducted child. Not all programs issue a follow-up message to confirm that a child has been found. If an update or cancellation to an AMBER Alert is issued, it will be sent to customers who receive the initial alert.
Does this work on all Sprint and Nextel wireless phones and devices?
The alerts are currently available for all Nextel phones and devices and for all Sprint PCS phones capable of receiving text messages.
Am I automatically going to receive these alerts if I am a Sprint customer?
No. Only subscribers who opt-in for wireless AMBER Alerts will receive text messages when an alert is issued in their geographic area.
How long after I subscribe will I start receiving AMBER Alerts?
Sprint provisions your subscription to an external server and that process takes 24-48 hours. You will receive a notification message on your handset when your subscription is active. This notification message, like all AMBER Alert-related messages, is free.
I signed up for Wireless AMBER Alerts before Sprint and Nextel merged. Do I need to re-enroll? Did the merger impact how Sprint and Nextel handle Wireless AMBER Alerts?
No. The merger had no impact for Sprint or Nextel subscribers Wireless AMBER Alert enrollments.
If I change my mind, how can I unsubscribe to the wireless AMBER Alert program?
You may unsubscribe to the wireless AMBER Alert program at any time by visiting www.wirelessamberalerts.org.
I was registered to receive AMBER Alerts at my previous carrier and brought my number to Sprint. Am I automatically subscribed?
No, you must re-subscribe when you change from one carrier to another, however, as Sprint customers, you do not need to re-subscribe if you already have subscribed unless you change phone numbers or open a new account.
I've noticed that other organizations send AMBER Alerts to wireless phones. What's different about Sprint?
Sprint, and other wireless carriers, rely on a direct connection to the NCMEC/DOJ database. This provides an increased level of quality control.
Other services simply send emails, and are unable to tell whether these messages are reaching consumers' wireless phones. Also, since other services are not coordinated with Sprint, their subscribers would be charged for the text messages.
Do AMBER Alerts take priority over other SMS messages?
AMBER Alerts receive the same queuing as other SMS messages.
Does Sprint support nationwide AMBER Alerts?
There is no such thing as a nationwide AMBER Alert. All AMBER Alerts are initiated by local law enforcement through a regional or state program. If the alert needs to be sent to more areas, it is coordinated by the initial sender with neighboring AMBER programs. Sprint supports alerts from all 113 regional and state programs.
Will I get AMBER Alerts from all over the country?
Once you have opted in to the AMBER Alert program, you will only receive an alert on your phone if a child has been abducted from the location you designated.
What are AMBER Alert locations?
When local law enforcement initiates an AMBER Alert, they target it toward several counties or an entire state. You'll be able to designate up to five locations for which you want to receive AMBER Alerts. If any of your locations are within the target area, you'll receive the alert. Due to the broad coverage of each alert, you should only include locations where you spend a large amount of time.
Will I receive AMBER Alerts when I'm traveling?
Yes. You will receive AMBER Alerts for the locations you have selected regardless of where in the Sprint PCS or Nextel National Network you are located.
What is the history of the AMBER Alert program?
AMBER stands for “America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response” and was created in 1997 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to find abducted children. The AMBER Alert program was soon adopted across the nation and is a legacy to Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then murdered.
President Bush authorized the national AMBER Alert program as part of the PROTECT Act signed in 2003. The law formally established the federal government's role in the AMBER Alert program, appointing the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the agency responsible for coordinating AMBER Alerts on the national level. DOJ has officially partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), authorizing them as the agent that coordinates and disseminates AMBER Alerts to secondary distributors.
According to NCMEC, more than 200 children have been recovered since the AMBER Alert program began in 1996. More than 80 percent of the total numbers of successful recoveries to date have occurred since October 2002, when the AMBER Alert program became a coordinated, national effort. For more information, visit the NCMEC website www.missingkids.com.