Wireless Amber Alerts FAQs
1) Has the Wireless AMBER Alert program changed?
The Wireless AMBER Alert™ program ended operations on December 31, 2012, as a part of the nation's transition to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program. Millions of cellphone users across the country will now receive free, automatic notifications about abducted children in their area as part of the WEA program.
CTIA and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer WEA to supplement the existing Emergency Alert System. Consumers with WEA-capable smartphones and feature phones and services are automatically enrolled to receive AMBER Alerts for free, along with the Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts. If you're not sure if your U.S. Cellular smartphone or feature phone is capable of receiving WEA Alerts, you can call customer care at 1-888-944-9400 or visit any U.S. Cellular store for assistance.
Unlike Wireless AMBER Alerts, the WEA AMBER Alerts use the latest technology to send messages to wireless customers with WEA-capable devices in the area where a child has been abducted, even if the wireless customer isn't from the area. For example, if a Chicago resident was visiting Boston and a WEA AMBER Alert was issued in Boston, the subscriber would receive the alert. At the same time, if an alert was issued in Chicago, the subscriber would not receive it while in Boston.
Statistics show that the first three hours after an abduction are the most critical in recovery efforts, and being able to quickly engage the public in the search for an abducted child can help law enforcement bring that child home safely.
The 700,000 wireless customers currently enrolled in Wireless AMBER Alerts will receive text messages about the transition and alternative sources for receiving AMBER Alerts.