We all know how quickly life can change. In just a matter of seconds, a series of circumstances plays out and by good fortune, design or both, a potentially disastrous situation is averted and the despair of what might have been is replaced with the absolute joy of what did happen.
That’s exactly what occurred on Thursday in Yuba City, CA thanks to wireless technology, extraordinary collaboration and a very quick thinking citizen.
Gurinder Jhutty was on his way to work in the middle of the afternoon when he received an AMBER Alert on his cellphone. Three children had been abducted and authorities issued the alert, based on the protocols established by the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. It was just seconds later that Mr. Jhutty was driving by a parking lot when he saw the vehicle described in the alert. He checked the license plate and then saw the three children in the back seat.
Mr. Jhutty called 911 right away, and police responded and soon apprehended the abductor. From the time Mr. Jhutty received the alert to when the children were safely recovered, nine minutes had elapsed. Nine minutes!
This is an extraordinary demonstration of the power of mobile communication, and why the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and numerous public safety organizations worked so hard together to develop the WEA system.
The WEA system includes three levels of alerts; Presidential, imminent threats, and AMBER alerts for missing children. To the average consumer, WEAs appear to be similar to text messages, but they’re actually different in a couple of ways. They’re supported by a different technology, so WEAs are delivered as soon as they’re issued. Any potential delay because of network congestion or any other reason is avoided. They’re also issued on a point-to-multipoint basis. That means they’re sent to a specific area, so only users in the area affected by the alert are notified.
Everyone with a WEA-capable device is automatically enrolled to receive these alerts. If you’re not sure whether your device has that capability, check with your carrier.
Incorporating AMBER Alerts into the WEA system has led to heartwarming family reunions. The first AMBER Alert issued through a WEA led to a Minneapolis, MN area youngster being safely recovered when a teenager received an alert and spotted the abductor’s car. There have been several other successful recoveries of abducted children whose situations were transmitted to a vigilant public via WEAs.
There’s no question that wireless technology is transforming how we live our lives. But through AMBER Alerts and WEAs, it is also saving lives. As any parent will tell you, there is no greater reward than getting another chance to hug your children, and we’re glad that wireless can help make it happen.