The Montana Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it has begun using CodeRED, a hosted emergency notification system, to issue the state’s AMBER Alerts and Missing/Endangered Person Advisories.
During a press conference in Helena, DOJ officials thanked the Town Pump Foundation for its donation, which made the switch to the new alert system possible.
“Thanks to the generous support of the Town Pump Foundation, for a period of three years, we’ll be using CodeRED to support our AMBER Alert and MEPA Programs,” said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. “CodeRED provides multiple methods of rapid communication to the public whenever a child has been abducted, which is critically important in situations when every second counts."
CodeRED is certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, and will allow the DOJ to issue Wireless Emergency Alerts. Previously, WEAs, which generate cell phone tones/texts to the public, were issued for the Montana DOJ by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Arlington, Virginia.
Jennifer Viets, AMBER Alert Coordinator for the Montana DOJ, said, “We appreciate the assistance NCMEC has provided, and NCMEC is still our back-up plan, but we hope having the ability to issue a WEA will expedite the alert. Regulations tightly restrict the use of WEA, but there is no doubt they are an effective way to reach the public."
Viets noted, "Traditionally, WEAs were issued only when a good description of the abductor’s vehicle was available. The second time we used the WEA to send an AMBER Alert was last year; a Montana citizen was reading the alert on his cell phone, looked up and saw the suspect vehicle parked right in front of him. Officers responded and found the vehicle was still warm. Tire tracks leaving the area helped identify the second suspect vehicle. The alert was updated and several hours later – 200 miles away – a citizen tip came in that led to the recovery of the children and arrest of the kidnapping suspects.”
A statewide test using the new Code Red system is tentatively set for October 10 at 10:00 am. Details regarding the test will be released in early October.
Up until July 1st, the Montana DOJ had been using a free web portal to issue AMBER Alerts; however, agency staff noted some technical difficulties. Agency officials noted other advantages to using the CodeRED system, including:
MT DOJ officials encourage people to download the free CodeRED app. While people will still receive AMBER Alerts on their phones without having the app, downloading it will enable them to receive more detailed AMBER Alerts, such as those that include photos, as well as cancellation notices when AMBER Alerts have ended. The app also enables users to receive MEPAs on their phones.
Since 2003, the Montana DOJ has issued 30 AMBER Alerts. All 46 children involved were located; tragically, four of them were deceased.