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Cell phone startlers: The story behind mobile Amber Alerts

Cell phone startlers: The story behind mobile Amber Alerts

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - People across Idaho had their eyes peeled for missing California teen Hannah Anderson after getting alarming alerts sent to their phones.

"I think we all as a community need to be available to help locate people, especially when a child is involved," said Idaho State Police Cpl. Peter Sibus.

The new Wireless Emergency Alerts are great for law enforcement, but they were the FCC's idea.

"The FCC came up with it in 2008 and started getting wireless providers to start making it possible for people to get alerted for amber alerts, presidential alerts, as well as severe alerts such as tornadoes," said Mason Oswald, a sales manager for Syringa Wireless.

Since the idea was born, wireless providers, including Syringa, have been working on getting new phones that are compatible with it out on the market.

The loud noise that startled the west coast last week can't be found in the phone's settings because they're unique to WEAs when an agency issues the alert.

"This goes to a big distribution channel, which then sends out to different wireless provider by county, so that everybody can be aware by county," Oswald said.

Some wireless providers are working on software updates for older model phones that are not compatible to receive WEAs. Syringa offers a downloadable application in the Google Play Store.

Users can select which types of WEAs they can receive. Users can also unsubscribe from WEAs through their smartphone's settings.

Older cell phones can still get text message alerts through the Code Red alert system by signing up at the Code Red website

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