Smartphone Amber Alert first of its kind locally
The first Amber Alert sent to smartphones in the Buffalo area likely surprised many Western New Yorkers on Monday. The Wireless Emergency Alerts system, or WEA, was developed by the wireless industry, the FCC and FEMA. WEA is designed to ensure as many American as possible are alerted to dangerous situations, including major floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. It is also used for Amber Alerts.
New York State's Amber Alert coordinator, State Police Senior Investigator Gary Kelly, says most new phones are WEA-capable.
"People do not have to go and register to receive Amber Alerts, it's already going to be in their phone for the WEA activations. It's an opt-out program. They would have to go in and opt out through their options if they didn't want to receive them," Kelly tells WBFO News.
Kelly says WEAs are cell tower driven, meaning they are targeted for people in a specific area, not by area code. The Amber Alerts are only activated when there's a known vehicle and a known license plate.
Cassidy Geffert, 16, of Greece was found unharmed Monday afternoon, shortly after the alert went out.