No More Child Emergency Alerts Please

Comcast just interrupted programing for 3 minutes with an emergency child abduction alert. Only there was no information and instead a carpet cleaning commerical and radio bit about the Denver Broncos played annoyingly.

It was the kind of alert that comes on for hurricanes and testing of the emergency broadcast system. One child going missing is not a national or community-wide emergency. It's a local police issue. Emergency interruptions should be limited to dangers to everyone in the community.

It's bad enough Amber Alerts are broadcast on highway signs. They are dangerous distractions, just like texting while driving. Drivers' eyes should be on the road, not trying to read details of a crime alert. To have them forced on us in our own homes is even worse. [More...]

What law requires these interruptions and who decides that a singular missing child warrants an interruption of public broadcasting? And who was so incompetent that instead of giving information about the child, a carpet commercial and radio ad played instead? Here's the FCC notice about them. Here is the guide.

Update: It's now playing again less than 10 minutes after the first interruption. The Sheridan Police Department requested the alert. It is looking for a 9 month old baby who is with a 20 something male with crooked teeth (they mentioned his name). If they know his name, and his location, they should go find him. They don't need the help of everyone in the community. And there's a real danger it will promote vigilantism. Here's more from the New York Times in 2002.


At least give us a way to opt out of these alerts. Let the FCC know. Call the FCC: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or fax 1-866-418-0232. You can also file an online complaint, which I'm doing now.

Save the emergency broadcast system for true community emergencies, not local crimes. The Amber Alert bill was pushed through Congress by crime warrior Joe Biden and James Sensenbrenner as an add-on to a bill increasing sentences -- I complained about it repeatedly when it was under consideration. I'm going to complain about it even more if these intrusions don't stop.

Update: The Denver Post reports on the child abduction. Makes me even more convinced this was not something to interrupt public broadcasting for. The more routine these announcements become, the more likely we are to pay less attention when they air, and miss a true community-wide emergency.
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    Disagree (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 09:36:55 AM EST
    The AMBER Alert system has been pretty effective in saving missing and abducted children - in fact, it's saved 554 kids since its inception in 2002, and if we are all inconvenienced for a couple of minutes out of watching TV or listening to the radio, then that's too bad.  

    From your link (none / 0) (#14)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 10:02:25 AM EST

    AMBER Alert programs have helped save the lives of 554 children nationwide.

    That is the sales pitch.  How many were "helped" is of little use in evaluating the system.  In how many of those cases was the AMBER alert necessary to save a life?


    Well (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 11:05:33 AM EST
    Since the law only allows an Amber Alert to be issued in the case of abductions, this isn't a matter of one being issued every time a kid is late for dinner.  And since one of the prongs that has to be satisified before an alert is issued, is:

    Risk of Serious Bodily Injury or Death  Plans require a child be at risk for serious bodily harm or death before an alert can be issued. This element is clearly related to law enforcement's recognition that stranger abductions represent the greatest danger to children. The need for timely, accurate information based on strict and clearly understood criteria is critical, again keeping in mind the "best judgment" approach.

    Then I would venture to say that the Amber Alerts were necessary in those cases.



    That is your estimate. (none / 0) (#30)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 11:27:45 AM EST

    But your link makes no claim that the alert was necessary in so much as a single case.  That does not mean the alert was unnecessary in every case, only that the DOJ chooses not to disclose that number.  

    Reporting an ambiguous "helpful" as opposed to necessary or instrumental speaks volumes IMO.

    BTW, any passenger traveling in any car or truck is at risk for serious bodily harm or death.



    How do you prove a negative? (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 09:08:04 AM EST
    You automatically assume that they were not necessary to find those children.  How would prove and calculate thst they weren't?

    The fact thst you assume the alerts are too inconvenient is also very telling, IMO.


    no such assumption (none / 0) (#34)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 09:26:16 PM EST

    I made no such assumption.  I only observed that the DOJ makes no claim for necessity in so much as a single case.



    You're right (none / 0) (#35)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 29, 2012 at 10:18:37 AM EST
    Those kids were just playing hide and seek

    Probably could not love causal connection. But, (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Wed Feb 29, 2012 at 10:55:42 AM EST
    still, what's the harm?

    It interrupts "The Bachelor" (none / 0) (#37)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 29, 2012 at 11:27:43 AM EST
    I Disagree About the Alerts on Highway Signs (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 10:18:02 AM EST
    No offense, but if you can't read a sign and drive you probably shouldn't be on the road.

    They never put one up without a car description and tag number.  I for one pay attention on my drive for the description.  

    They do it for Amber Alerts and missing elderly, and unlike TV, it's live for everyone about people who surely are in cars, not on their couch alone 3 days later.

    The signs were built with this in mind, and I for one would rather have that information then traffic conditions considering my phone Maps app is far more accurate then "Accident at Fondron" or "Texans Parking use Kirby Exit".  Plus of course they are blank for the most part.

    I would also argue that missing people are community issues, but discretion is needed.  I hate weather alerts days later, seems to me that a scrolling banner on the bottom would be enough and with a visual at commercial break.  But I suspect when push comes to shove, those ads dollars are not worthy of missing children interruptions.

    Do they count as PSA's ?

    Yep (none / 0) (#26)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 11:07:10 AM EST
    No offense, but if you can't read a sign and drive you probably shouldn't be on the road.

    I was just raging about this on Twitter (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 12:32:41 AM EST
    It all boils down to security theater. I hate security theater.

    And you can't even get out of it if you're watching something previously recorded on TiVo. I was watching the Clinton documentary and minding my own business when my program got interrupted and I got the Amber Alert with April Zesbaugh reading a carpet cleaning commercial on 850 KOA.

    And to add insult to injury, TiVo lost the place and started the video over, so I had to hunt for where I was.

    And then ten minutes later it all happened again. Sigh.

    I'm sitting here in my jammies watching TV, have been for 3 hours. I live nowhere near the neighborhood in question. There is exactly zero chance I would have anything to offer, and the same is true for the people in Craig, Grand Junction, and Durango who all have to sit through the same thing.

    Thanks, Mike (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 12:36:45 AM EST
    You said it better that I did. You are exactly right.

    Another waste of money and adrenaline (none / 0) (#32)
    by MikeDitto on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 06:19:26 PM EST
    Did the Amber Alert that put the entire state on edge last night find 9 month-old Naveah Lopez? Nope. Cops did. http://j.mp/xsJjry

    Hysteria'R'us (none / 0) (#3)
    by koshembos on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 01:33:41 AM EST
    We interrupt programming to scare people that cannot help. We build a million miles fence to stop hungry non-white people from entering from Mexico. We make every passenger take out their laptop, but not tablet, without even looking at the laptop. We are fighting a war against drugs without ever stopping to think why.

    Does Wikipedia have an entry for Hysterical Democracy?

    Side Note (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 10:33:23 AM EST
    My 10" tablet always has to come out, which is ridiculous.  Their xray machine can't go through my bag ?

    My pet peeve is shoes, there are people from all corners of the planet walking through bare foot, and I have to expose myself to god knows what even though I have travel shoes that have no heel or steel in them.  And now with scanners, is this really necessary, they can see my junk, but not my toes, gimme a break.


    We have Silver Alerts in Florida (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 06:55:55 AM EST
    for when a senior tries to make a run for it.

    I agree that mostly what these things do is scare people into a general elevated level of insecurity.

    It is (none / 0) (#5)
    by lentinel on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 08:41:13 AM EST
    just another way for media that cares nothing for us or our well-being to pretend that they care about us and our well-being.

    How often is it one parent (none / 0) (#6)
    by BobTinKY on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 09:16:23 AM EST
    calling in regarding a divorced spouse?  Seems to be the case with most I read about.

    Not saying it's not a problem but that these divorced parent cases are not reasons for community-wide alerts.

    If there is a real emergency... (none / 0) (#13)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 10:00:47 AM EST
    last night's episode certainly didn't fill me with confidence that the EBS will give us the details needed.  Will we get Mike Rosen ranting about filthy liberals ruining the country or the play-by-play of the Rockies game instead of tornado warnings or wild fire evacuation information?  

    I suppose we'll have a lot of tests coming up from Comcast screwing it up.

    Road Sign Warnings... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 11:14:37 AM EST
    at least make sense...whats issuing an alert to somebody eating Doritos on their couch watching the tube gonna do? Seems pointless to me, but not a big deal by any stretch. Coupling the alert with a commercial is pretty lame.  

    On the plus side, we did get some new slang outta the deal to replace "jailbait"...

    Dude A: "Check out that pretty girl over there!"

    Dude B: "Check your specs dude, that's an Amber Alert waiting to happen."

    Just to be clear... (none / 0) (#31)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 11:30:49 AM EST
    Comcast screwed up (shock!) and aired the radio feed instead of the AA. You shouldn't be giving them ideas of coupling AA's with ads though--now we'll probably get "Today's Amber Alert is brought to you by Rocky's Autos".