Hundreds of thousands of smartphone users in Iowa were jolted awake around 2 o’clock this morning by an AMBER Alert. It’s the second time in two weeks the emergency warning system has gone off in the wee hours and it’s left some Iowans vowing to disable the feature.
Sergeant Nate Ludwig, of the Iowa State Highway Patrol, says those cell phone alerts are vital and he hopes people will reconsider. “I would advise them not to disable them,” Ludwig says. “If this was one of their kids or someone they knew or someone they might have clues about, they’re not going to be notified by this wireless alert.”
The incident involved a father abducting his young son in Urbandale, both of whom are presumed to have died in a vehicle fire last night in northern Missouri. While the outcome in this case was tragic, Ludwig says he’s confident in how the AMBER Alert system is working.
“The two previous AMBER Alerts we had before that, the one up in Clay County and the one in Jefferson, as soon as the AMBER Alert goes out, they reach as many people as possible and the end result was, these kids were returned safely and they were returned quickly, within an hour after the AMBER Alert went out,” Ludwig says.
The alerts are also going out in several other venues, like on Iowa Lottery ticket machines, the Iowa DOT’s roadside message boards and over weather radios. Still, people’s frustrations with the notifications early today were compounded by word the father and son were killed in the fire several hours before Iowans were even alerted to the abduction.
“In this case, people are jumping to conclusions,” Ludwig says. “They hear the child was missing since 11 o’clock yesterday and then the AMBER Alert goes out at 1:45, but they don’t hear the whole story. Like with anything, you’ve gotta’ hear the whole story before you realize what happened.”
In this case, the father wasn’t expected to return the child until 8 P.M. and it wasn’t until later that the mother reported the possible abduction. He says all procedures were followed and the alert was issued as quickly as possible. Ludwig notes, since the AMBER Alert program was initiated in 1996, a total of 767 children who were subject of the alerts have been safely returned to their homes.