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Amber Alert Flub: Phone Companies Sent Messages In Pittsburgh

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(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Amber Alert for the missing 5-year-old girl from Philadelphia may have been helpful in her recovery.

However, that Amber Alert intended for the Philadelphia region, went out to more people than it should have.

The Amber Alert was accidentally issued to many Verizon and Sprint customers across the state. A vague message showing up on locals’ phones had many people confused.

“It sounded almost like the emergency warnings that come over the TV,” one recipient said. “It just said, ‘Amber Alert, see your local news.’”

And that is what has state police so fired up.

“We provide all the information that is necessary,” State Police Trooper Robin Mungo said. “We would not ever give you vague information and then tell you, once we give you vague information, to contact your local media for additional information.”

In April of 2012, under the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a new wireless emergency alert system was created.

Participating cell phone carriers could send critical alerts to the public.

State Police messages, like one received by a KDKA producer last night, stating only “an amber alert has been issued in your area,” do not help.

“We don’t want to affect the integrity of the entire system,” Mungo said. “We want people to know that when that information goes out, this is solid information we have and we’re hoping to count on the public to be additional eyes and ears to help find that missing child.”

Pennsylvania State Police could not say where the ball was dropped, only that it wasn’t on their end.

They believe that the impact of an Amber Alert reaching too many people unnecessarily could create a “boy who cried wolf” scenario.

“At some point in time, you’re gonna get tired of it and you’re not going to take them serious,” Mungo said.

Verizon responded Tuesday, saying that the limited wording used in their text message was provided by the Philadelphia Police Department and that a more detailed alert was sent to people in the Philadelphia area.

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