Is it possible to have a real and constructive conversation about the Ontario Amber Alert system without somebody calling me a soulless excuse for a human being who is so incredibly selfish as not to have any care for the wellbeing of children?
While this isn't a direct quote, the sentiment is there. Some of the comments directed to people online today have been atrocious.
Let me get a few things out of the way before I explain my perspective.
1. Amber Alerts save lives. They are an important and necessary tool for law enforcement to track down missing and kidnapped children. There is no discussion nor debate on this point. The faster an Amber Alert is issued, the more likely it is that a child is returned safely home. I am a huge proponent of the system and would never advocate for it to be dismantled. EVER!
2. Anybody who calls 911 to complain about an Amber Alert waking them up in the middle of the night should be heavily fined for misuse of the 911 emergency system. The idea that somebody would think that 911 should be their personal complaint department either clearly doesn't understand what 911 is for or clearly doesn't care. A hefty fine should solve that problem for good.
3. I don't mind being woken up in the middle of the night for reasons of emergency. If there is an emergency situation that I could reasonably help with or contribute to the collective response, wake me. Happy to help. I don't mind the shrill alarm nor do I mind trekking down the stairs of my building in the middle of the night in case of emergency. Missing children are absolutely an emergency.
4. If any child of mine or known to me were the subject of disappearance, I would absolutely want the Amber Alert system to be used. Honestly, who wouldn't?
So now, let's talk.
We can agree to all of the above and still acknowledge that the system could use some tweaking. The two philosophies are NOT mutually exclusive and can co-exist. With that in mind....
I have some questions for the designers of the cellphone notification system and how it is used.
1. Why is there no way to snooze the system when somebody is sleeping? I can put my iPhone on a Do Not Disturb for any other reason, but not the Amber Alert? It is possible for me to silence my phone at night but that leads to another issue, namely...
2. If I silence my phone at night to avoid these alerts while sleeping, how do I receive possible emergency calls from my ageing parents? My parents are at a stage in life whereby a middle of the night call might be essential. Should I have to mute my phone simply because of the Amber Alert? I do not have a landline, so can somebody please explain to me how to rectify this issue?
3. Why wasn't yesterday's Alert done in a timely manner? The children went missing with their grandfather around 1:00 in the afternoon. Why did it take almost fifteen hours to issue the Amber Alert? If this is part of police procedure, then they are doing a poor job of explaining it to the public. Isn't it possible to have released the Alert at say, 9:00pm? Again, just asking questions.
4. Jarring people of a certain age and some with health issues in the middle of the night without remedy to stop it seems shortsighted to me. My father has a heart condition. If he had received that alert at 3:00 am, I'm not sure I would be so rational right now. Aren't we just compounding problems?
5. The only way to disable the Amber Alert on an iPhone here in Ontario is to disable the LTE network. Other jurisdictions have a disable function on their software. Why has this not been explored here? Is the answer for me to disable the LTE each and every night? This isn't meant to sound snarky. I really want to understand it.
While I obviously do not like being woken up at 3:00 am, I do understand the necessity of the Amber Alert system and wholeheartedly endorse it. But it does seem to me that there are some kinks in the system that could and should be looked at so as to better utilize the tool and minimize the communal unrest of middle of the night jarring signals.
And please...idiots...911 is not your personal grievance committee. Stop acting like morons.