Why didn’t I get an Amber Alert on my phone?

WASHINGTON — Now that 3-year-old Zion Williams has been returned safely to his grandmother after allegedly being abducted, some have wondered why they didn’t receive an Amber Alert on their smartphone.

The answer is because chances are you were sleeping.

Since 2013, Amber Alerts have been automatically sent to all cellphones through a partnership between the law enforcement agencies, the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Corinne Geller, public relations director with Virginia State Police, said the Amber Alert was activated just before 2:30 a.m., when most people are asleep.

“State police made the decision not to activate the cellular phone alert so as not to startle, wake and/or panic the majority of the population in the middle of the night,” said Geller.

Phone owners automatically receive the Amber Alerts, but can opt-out, if they choose.

“We were concerned that people would turn off the Amber Alert notification system as a result of being awakened at such an early hour,” Geller said.

For those awake, the Amber Alert was disseminated through Emergency Alert System announcements, and notifications were posted on highway signs and lottery kiosks, said Geller.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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