At 3:51 yesterday morning, New Yorkers, who don’t mute their phones or shut them off before bed, were throttled from a deep slumber by a blaring alarm accompanying an Amber Alert.
A 7-month-old infant had been abducted from a foster care agency in Upper Manhattan, by his mother who had a history of mental illness and exhibited recent outbreaks of violence.
The Amber Alert, named after a child who was abducted and murdered in Texas in the 1990s, serves to “galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child” (AmberAlert.gov).
The overall reaction from New Yorkers, as it appeared on my newsfeed, was annoyance. It seems that most folks don’t like getting woken up in the middle of the night.
So I need to know – why were their phones not silenced while they slept?
The argument to which I’m responding is that waking us all up with that terribly grating sound was unnecessary. That FEMA could have waited until a more respectable hour (say, after 9am? Though I suppose that might be too early for those working night shifts) to alert residents of my city that an innocent child had gone missing and provide them with a description so they may aid in the rescue.
It was a literal wake-up call. Many people expressed their ignorance of what an Amber Alert even is. Now they know. They’re not happy about HOW they came to know, but how can they argue against a government-issued warning of a missing child and a plea to a city’s citizens to be aware of any clues that may lead to his safe return?
Perhaps our government agency is sorry they woke up so many people. In fact, as it has been argued to me, perhaps because someone was robbed of sleep, they may perform poorly at the wheel and cause injury to other children. I don’t disagree that such a tragedy could happen.
But it would be because that person left their phone on in the middle of the night. Not because an Amber Alert was pushed to it. A wrong number at that time might have possibly also awoken the sleeping person with its ring.
We can’t blame others for “bothering” us if we’re the ones leaving our speakers on. If you opt to keep the sound on your phone when you plan to be unconscious, that is not anyone else’s problem but your own.
Many didn’t realize they could even control the settings of government-issue warnings. Again, nobody’s fault but the smartphone’s owner. These are our devices. We’re responsible for knowing how to use them.
I will not explicitly lay out how to turn off your government alerts, but there are ways of finding out if you choose.
My point is NOT that I thought it was terrific this alert came when most people were not in a position to be receptive to it, or all that helpful, half-asleep. Especially since it was determined that the child was taken the afternoon prior, which begs the question – why did the alert even go OUT at that ungodly hour?
My argument is that better we get this message at any time and at any volume than not at all. Clearly the resources behind the Amber Alert chain of command are limited and we must accept an “all or nothing” approach. Meaning, we get the alert when it’s able to be sent out, regardless of how soon that occurs after it has been reported.
As a parent, I would take it. Tell me what you can, when you can. While we risk many people now turning their Amber Alert settings off on their phones, instead of just turning the sound off, I stand firmly in the camp that more good than harm will come from this.
I have no sympathy for people who need to be plugged in at all times, only to complain about getting this sort of news.
My iPhone was on that night, but muted. I was not awakened by any alarm, though the message did appear on my screen when I swiped it to “wake it up,” three hours after the alert was issued. This event has actually caused me to reconsider keeping the sound on at night. I think we would all sleep better if the world agreed to be more proactive, and less reactive, in keeping children safe.
The New York Times reports on this recent NYC case: “The police said [the woman who abducted her infant son] was found after the Amber Alert led to a tip to the department’s Crime Stoppers hot line.” The child was in good condition.
Did you get an Amber Alert wake-up call? How do you feel about its efficiency?