Government mandated alerts shake Californians out of their sleep

Julie Wilson
August 6, 2013

See update below

A California state issued AMBER Alert blasted in the early morning hours Tuesday, abruptly awakening residents while they slept.

Two children were believed to be abducted out of San Diego Monday evening by James Lee DiMaggio, 40. DiMaggio is suspected to be involved in two deaths, including the killing of the children’s mother Christina Anderson, 44.

The two children, Hannah Anderson, 16, and her brother Ethan Anderson, 8, went missing following a fire at DiMaggio’s home.

Investigators discovered Anderson’s body in the remains of the burning home Sunday evening and have determined her death a homicide.

Investigators also found the body of a child inside the burning home, but police have been unable to determine the child’s identity or the cause of death.

According to an AMBER Alert notice issued by the California Highway Patrol website, the children were believed to be abducted Monday evening around 5p.m. by DiMaggio.

Although the public expressed concern for the two children, many conveyed distaste for the alerts.

Twitchy posted the following tweets:

The U.S. Department of Justice describes the program as a “voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.”

The alerts, also referred to as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), are free messages provided as part of a national public safety system that allows customers with capable devices to get free geographically targeted emergency alerts from government, state or local agencies.

There are three different types of alerts:

• National Weather Service or FEMA alerts involving imminent threats to life or property via extreme weather

• AMBER Alerts for missing children

• Presidential Alerts

The last is the only alert that people are unable to opt out of.  According to AT&T’s website, owner’s with a WEA capable device are automatically enrolled in the alerts.

However, FEMA guidelines say users can opt out of all alerts except for the Presidential Alerts, in case of a “national emergency” of course.

The iPhone allows you to opt out by going into “settings” and then “notifications,” where you can turn off both the “AMBER Alerts” and “Emergency Alerts.”

UPDATE: The AMBER Alert remained in effect Wednesday morning for the two San Diegan children. Police believe the suspect, DiMaggio, may be en route to either Canada or Texas.

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