Michigan’s Emergency Alert System Failed Miserably During Overnight AMBER Alert
UPDATE- 1:00pm Thu 3/14/19:
According to the Michigan State Police, the blame for repeated alerts being sent out to many mobile customers around the state lies with the mobile providers themselves.
The Michigan State Police issues AMBER Alerts, however we do not issue Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). We request them through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who coordinate with the Broadcasters’ associations throughout the nation. Additionally, it’s on each individual cell phone carrier to push the alert out on their service. - Lori Dougovito (Michigan State Police Public Affairs Representative)
Additionally, if anyone who received a WEA after the AMBER Alert had been cancelled had just came into the state/crossed the state line, the carrier towers still maintain the information, so the towers will push in the info to all "new" devices to its tower range.
So Sprint, Verizon, etc. would be the ones responsible for repeated alerts or no alerts at all for their Michigan customers. I reached out to Sprint (my mobile carrier) and was told they would forward the complaint through their proper channels. As of 1:00pm, I had received five more alerts for a grand total of 13.
A lot of people around Michigan were awoken late Wednesday evening and early Thursday, perhaps several times, as an apparent bug in the Emergency Alert System allowed an AMBER Alert to be sent to mobile devices repeatedly. In fact that alert, which has long been over now, is still being sent out as of 9:30 Thursday morning.
The first alert came at 11:44 pm, with confusing language I might add, regarding a child in the Upper Peninsula who had been abducted in the city of Paradise. The boy was thankfully found safe a few hours later and two suspects were arrested.
After the first alert at 11:44 pm, which is about my bedtime, I received another at 11:55 pm with the same information. At 12:32 am, I received the same alert three times within the minute, and then again at 12:45 am. Then this morning, I got two more. One at 7:30 am and another at 9:31 am. That's eight identical alerts.
None of them contained key updated information as local media was informing that the truck mentioned in the repeated alert was abandoned early on. Authorities also had narrowed down the search area and still the original alert was being sent with outdated and useless information. Then the alert came a few times when the incident was complete over and no one was in danger anymore. Simply put, this part of that emergency situation was executed very poorly.
According to social media posts and comments, it was different for almost everyone. Some said they only got one or two alerts. Some also got eight of them like me, and everything in between. Alarmingly, there were even a few who said they didn't get it at all, even though they had their mobile device set to receive the alerts. Honestly, that would bother me a lot more.
The AMBER Alert system through the EAS is a great tool to alert people on mobile devices quickly. It's frustrating and frankly ignorant, in my opinion, when people complain about the inconvenience of the alerts, especially at night, because they were woke up. What if it was your child? And if you really don't care, you can choose to shut off the alerts on your mobile device.
However, this complete failure of the system last night by sending the alert several times in the late hours and even this morning when the incident was long over is unacceptable and could lead to many reasonably minded people to consider shutting it off for future alerts. That's the last thing anyone involved in these cases wants. This matter should be taken very seriously by those in charge of the alert system to ensure it doesn't happen again. It was likely a glitch, but that is about the worst glitch I could imagine for such an important, yet imposing way to send information.