Android and iPhone Amber Alerts are an instrumental tool in finding children who are lost or abducted, but the Amber Alert website is now offline as the government shutdown continues, but it is not not is limiting the role this service can play in finding children.
Update: The website is offline, but Amber Alerts will continue to function.
The Amber Alert website was online last week after the government shutdown started, but sometime this weekend the website went dark, showing a message that, “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs (OJP) website is unavailable.”
The Amber Alert website shows alerts for missing children and the program sends these messages to news agencies and to smartphone owners in the form of an emergency alert, similar to the emergency weather alerts that most new smartphones get.
The National Center for Missing and Endangered Children tells Gotta Be Mobile that the Amber Alerts are still functioning, providing the following statement;
“The Department of Justice Web site that provides information on the AMBER alert program is off-line but the program itself, which alerts communities to serious child abductions, is still up and running. Only the DOJ Web site, which is informational, is down. Each state has their own AMBER Alert Program. Service has not been impacted. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children continues to provide operational support for each AMBER Alert Program in the nation.” - Angeline Hartmann, Senior Public Relations Manager, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Additionally according to a statement issued to Buzzfeed by the Department of Justice, “Amber alerts are uninterrupted. They get issued by states and counties, which do notifications to media, on Twitter, highway signs, etc,”.
This statement contradicts those made by the California Highway Patrol to NBC4 Los Angeles which claimed the highway signs are offline due to the shutdown, but the DOJ is in a better position to know this status.
Emergency Weather alerts functioned as of October 5th in Ohio, and the National Weather Service remains online because it is deemed, “necessary to protect life and property.”
The same argument could be made for the Amber Alert website, and apparently is in effect. In 2011 the agency issued 158 Amber Alerts, leading to 144 recoveries. 28 of these successful recoveries came directly from an Amber Alert being issued according to statistics reported by the agency.
We’ve reached out to a major cell phone carrier and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to determine if the Android and iPhone Amber alerts will continue during the government shutdown. While the program is run through the federal government the carrier is working to figure out if Amber Alerts will continue while the website is down.
The NCMEC is the official clearing house for Amber Alerts, and their website remains online. As of this time there are no Active Amber Alerts. If one is issued this website should show more details. There is also an official Amber Alert app for iPhone run through the NCMEC which should show alerts.
Updated with statements from the DOJ at 11:17 AM.