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Arizonans will start getting cellphone notifications for certain Silver Alerts

(Arizona Department of Transportation Photo)

PHOENIX – Starting Tuesday, Arizonans could start receiving more public safety alerts on their mobile devices.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety will begin using the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, which generates cellphone notifications, for Silver Alerts in life-or-death situations.

“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.

Silver Alerts are issued when people over at 65 go missing. Since June 2018, they’ve also been used when people with certain cognitive or developmental disabilities go missing, regardless of age.

DPS has been making announcements to the public and local media outlets whenever Silver Alerts are issued. That practice won’t change, but now cellphone alerts will be included when officials determine an imminent threat to safety or life exists.

“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.”

Additionally, Blue Alerts, a rarely used designation for when the public is at risk because a suspect who attacked a law enforcement official is at large, will also result in cellphone alerts.

The WEA system will continue to be used for Amber Alerts for child abductions, as well as for warnings about dangerous weather and other major threats involving public safety.

The system, which launched in 2012, has been used more than 40,000 times, according to a DPS press release.

The WEA is activated on cellphones from all wireless carriers, but customers can choose to opt out of receiving the alerts. However, DPS encourages people to keep it active.

“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.

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