Beginning Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will start using the Wireless Emergency System to notify citizens of a life or death Silver Alert.
Silver Alerts are issued when people who are over 65 years of age go missing. Since June of 2018, they have also been used when people with developmental or cognitive disabilities go missing, no matter their age.
The Department of Public Safety has made announcements to media outlets when Silver Alerts were issued in the past. This practice will continue, but the announcement will also be sent to cell phones in the area if it is believed to be a life or death threatening circumstance.
“If the circumstances support that then you may get a Wireless Emergency Alert on your phone if that alert actually occurs within the community that you’re in,” Capt. Thomas Neve of the DPS Emergency Management unit said during a press conference Monday.
If the situation is not dire, notifications will not be sent wirelessly to cell phones.
Not every Silver Alert is going to generate a Wireless Emergency Alert on the phone,” DPS Sgt. Jimmy Chavez said during the press conference. “We narrow that criteria so that we don’t get into a situation where the public becomes desensitized.”
Furthermore, the rarely used ‘Blue Alerts’ will now be sent out via phone notifications. Blue Alerts are issued when an individual kills or injures a police officer and poses a threat to the public.
The WEA system will continue to be used for weather alerts, AMBER alerts, and other major public safety threats.
According to a DPS press release, the WEA system has been utilized over 40,000 times since its introduction in 2012. In this day in age, cell phones have become one of the easiest ways to alert citizens.
The WEA is available and active on all cell phone carriers. It can be deactivated, but the DPS highly discourages doing this.
“We know that that might be a concern that’s inconvenient to get those alerts, but realize they’re going out for a good reason and we need the public’s help to locate that person or persons in a timely manner,” Neve said.
A Silver Alert was sent to Arizonans via cell phone back in April, but the method officially begins this week.
Click here to learn more about Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).