Wednesday, June 19, 2013
AMBER Alert: Garbled Sound Over the Airwaves
The fourth AMBER Alert in Alaska’s history didn’t quite go as planned. There was confusion over what went out over the airwaves.
It was the fourth AMBER Alert in Alaska’s history, but it didn’t quite go as planned. There was confusion over what went out over the airwaves.
Anchorage police issued an AMBER Alert at about 5:10 p.m. after being notified that 16-year-old See Moua was kidnapped.
The AMBER Alert went out in some form over all channels on television, but many viewers at home say they couldn’t hear the entire message because parts of the sound were cutting out.
The AMBER Alert System is used to help look for children that have been abducted, like Moua. But what good is broadcasting the message, if you can’t hear it?
“It was clear coming out of the dispatch center, it was clear coming out of KFQD, there's some issues with the reception at some of the stations and then the rebroadcast which came out with static in it,” said Captain Berry Wilson, Alaska State Troopers.
The State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is not sure why the sound was muffled; it said it hasn’t had problems in the past.
“It worked as it was designed - every time we issue an act of a real alert, a live alert, we find issues in the systems that we have to remediate,” said Bryan Fisher, chief of operations for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
So who’s to blame? The State doesn’t know who or what caused the fuzzy sound, but it believes it has to do with the old equipment sending out the messages. The Emergency Alert System receivers were installed in 1995.
“We'll be working on a station-by-station basis to investigate if there were audio problems or visual problems and work with them on recommendations on how to improve that for next time,” said Fisher.
The AMBER Alerts are sent out in Alaska over the radio, television, highway signs and the Internet. As technology evolves, the State hopes to reach out to Alaskans with a new system by September 2011.
“That system also includes technology that will allow us to adapt it to social media systems, to broadcast, text messaging, to be able to post stuff automatically, to websites, to Facebook, Twitter,” said Fisher.
Captain Wilson said Alaska is slow to move forward with technology, but believed Facebook messages and the media played a big role in helping locate the 16-year-old girl Wednesday.
Until the system is up and running, Fisher suggests people sign up for free text message alerts on the Wireless AMBER Alerts website.