Many residents across Virginia were surprised to receive an AMBER Alert text message just after noon on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. According to the Virginia State Police, Wednesday's AMBER Alert was the first alert issued since Virginia opted into the Wireless Emergency Alert program about a year ago.
In restaurants, businesses and other public places across the state, a cacaphony of alarms caused people to stop in their tracks. The Wireless Emergency Alert program is offered through a partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters and transportation agencies.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, AMBER Alerts are issued in serious child abduction cases, particularly in instances when the child is considered to be in imminent danger.
In addition to the AMBER Alert, the Wireless Emergency Alert includes National Weather Service, presidential and imminent threat alerts.
There is no charge to mobile phone users for the alerts. If you own a capable mobile device, you will automatically receive the alerts if you are in a geographic area where an alert has been issued, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The alerts are transmitted to all mobile devices within range of the cellular carrier towers in the affected area simultaneously. The system doesn't track your whereabouts or your cell number.
Wednesday's alert showed the following information on my phone and mobile devices across the state:
Orange, VA AMBER Alert:
LIC/8AFZ03 (VA) 2001
Burgundy Mercedes C240
The missing child was 5-year-old Amiyah Monet Dallas, who was reportedly abducted on Feb. 18 at 3:50 p.m. by her aunt, Olivia Nicole Dallas.
Olivia Dallas has a history of depression and drug use. Investigators in the abduction case considered the child to be in imminent danger.
Unlike many AMBER Alerts, Wednesday's story had a happy ending. Just 27 minutes after the AMBER Alert was issued, a state trooper spotted the vehicle disabled on the side of the road.
The Virginia State Police Chesapeake Division Communications Center received more than a dozen phone calls from the public following the AMBER Alert, leading police to the area where the vehicle was found, according to a statement from the Virginia State Police.
Olivia Dallas was taken into custody without incident and Amiyah was returned to her family. The technology behind the AMBER Alert text messages will help locate missing children more quickly and that's a win for everyone.