Text messages to be added to Amber Alert notification system in 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The beginning of a new year means the beginning of a new addition to the Amber Alert notification system.

The current system only sends text messages to people who have signed up to receive them, but starting Jan. 1, all Wireless Emergency Alert compatible smartphones will receive a text message when an Amber Alert is issued in a given area.

"Ninety six percent of population currently has a cell phone, and we have to be cognizant of that," Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri Highway Patrol said. "We have to be willing to adapt our way of pushing out information as fast as possible."

The system will also use a different method of targeting specific areas.

Currently alerts are sent based on a person's home zip code, but the new system will use cell towers to notify every phone that is near those towers, regardless of a person's zip code.

"Being able to use those cell towers gets it out quickly and gets it out more efficiently then it would have in the past," Lowe said.

Lowe added that text will be limited to 90 characters, so the content of message will be brief and will encourage people to check their local media news outlet.

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