AMBER Alert Briefs – Issue 1 2021

Short News Clips on AMBER Alert & Child Protection Issues

Hacker claims access to U.S. and Canada Emergency Alert Systems

A U.S. hacker asserts he can break into the U.S. and Canadian Emergency Alert Systems and claims he could send a nationwide message through both systems. He said he was able to discover passwords from key manufacturers to access their systems. “Theoretically I can send anything from a volcano warning to the entire U.S. to an AMBER alert. If I really wanted, I could send out custom messages too,” he said. The hacker also warns of others with the same technological know-how.

In November 2020, hackers gained access to Florida’s emergency communications channel and sent an unauthorized message to the state’s emergency response team. “The fact that someone would use an emergency alert system for their own purpose, whatever it is, is both irresponsible and unlawful,” said Jason Mahon, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been asked to investigate.

Victim’s family seeks a “Quawan Alert” for missing children in Louisiana

The family of a murdered 15-year-old boy wants Louisiana to create a “Quawan Alert,” to notify the public as soon as a child goes missing. Quawan “Bobby” Charles was found dead near a field three-and-a-half years ago after video showed him getting into a vehicle as a passenger. The victim’s family is upset that police did not issue an AMBER Alert and want a system in place to help missing children, particularly children from poor communities.

Las Vegas bets AMBER Alerts will be more effective by becoming a “smart city”

Las Vegas has installed 123 miles of fiber-optic cable to support the infrastructure needs to become a “smart city.” The system includes high-definition video cameras, sound and motion sensors, and other online technology. Authorities say the video cameras can scan for a license plate connected to an AMBER Alert and help recover missing and abducted children.

NCMEC begins using new notification software for AMBER Alerts

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is now using a new software provider to send out Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) for the AMBER Alert system. NCMEC selected OnSolve, a critical event management provider, to provide time-sensitive notifications to geographic areas close to an incident.

Congress considers bill aiming to expand emergency alerts

Federal legislators are being asked to pass the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READ) Act so more people will receive emergency alerts. The bill will authorize research into new ways to alert people, track and study false alerts, and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts. The legislation expands AMBER Alerts to all U.S. territories and removes the ability for people to opt-out of certain federal emergency alerts.

Tennessee legislators consider “Evelyn’s Law” to help missing children

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that will require parents to immediately notify law enforcement within 48 hours if a child goes missing. “Evelyn’s Law” would also make everyone a “mandatory reporter” if they believe a child is in danger. The bill is named after Evelyn Boswell, a toddler who was missing for nearly two months before she was reported missing. Violators could face jail time for not making timely reports.

Florida now has “clickable” AMBER Alerts

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement can now issue AMBER Alerts with clickable links to photos and information about an abducted child. The links are included in the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that go to cellphones. Without the links, the WEA is restricted to only 90 characters, which provides only a limited amount of information to the public.

Pennsylvania lawmaker seeks “Jay Alert” system for hit-and-runs

A Pennsylvania state legislator wants to crack down on hit-and-runs by creating a “Jay Alert” which would notify body shops after an incident occurs. Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams said the law was inspired by an eight-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking home from school. The suspect was caught after a body shop owner notified police. The law would expand the AMBER Alert system and send descriptions of vehicles in hit-and-runs to all state body shops.