Authorities Now Able To Send Amber Alerts To Cellphones

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Thousands of Californians got an unexpected wake-up call Monday when their cellphones blasted out an alarm to let them know about an Amber Alert in that case.

It set off a debate over whether that alarm was needed in the middle of the night, since most people were asleep.

When a child is abducted and an Amber Alert is sent asking for your help, most people get the information off television or those electronic message signs stretched across highways.

In some states, those alerts are sent on cellphones.

It's called the wireless emergency alert program.

Itwarns about presidential alerts or terrorist threats, bad weather and the latest addition - Amber Alerts.

Chip Washington with the Shelby County Sheriff''s Office says anything that helps save a  life or catch bad guys is welcome.

"Any tool that helps law enforcement better inform the public about situation or circumstances  that are going on out there that may or may not affect them," he said.

It wasn't an alarm clock that woke up thousands of Californians around 11 p.m. Monday, it was a loud series of tones, the first statewide use of the wireless emergency system.

Many were grateful for the notice.

Others resented being disturbed by the alert.

Memphian Meka Egwuekwe said he wouldn't mind the alarm.

"I'm a father of two kids. If one of my kids were gone and we needed to use the Amber Alert system, absolutely I would want to be able to have a system like that to reach as many people who are willing to accept it," he said.

The alarm can be targeted to any cell phone tower, so anyone near those towers, even out-of-towners will receive the alarm.

Most new cellphones allow you to opt out of Amber Alert and imminent threat alarms.

The federal government requires that presidential alerts remain.

You can go to your settings on your phone and look for WEA alerts to turn it off or call your cellphone provider for directions.