SBC Foundation Donates to the Oklahoma Amber Alert System

The SBC Foundation has awarded $77,000 to the state of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters to support the development of the nation’s first Amber Alert notification system that uses satellite technology. The funding is part of a $1 million SBC Excelerator grant to help law enforcement agencies across the SBC 13-state region enhance the management and dissemination of Amber Alerts.

“Every second matters when a child is abducted,” says Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “The Amber Alert system is crucial in quickly spreading information about an abducted child to the public. We thank SBC for its role in supporting the Amber Alert system and protecting our children.”

In Oklahoma, the SBC Foundation grant will be used to develop a satellite activation feature of the current Amber Alert system. For radio and television broadcasters, the satellite enhancement will provide a faster alternative than the current Emergency Alert System (EAS) and instantly provide images, if available, as well as text information about a possible abduction. The satellite feature will also give law enforcement officials a better way to activate a regional Amber Alert when neighboring states might be affected.

“We recognize that the Amber Alert network is critically important in helping to locate lost or abducted children,” comments Don Cain, SBC Oklahoma president.

Oklahoma was the first state to develop a statewide Amber plan, which is a cooperative effort of the Office of the Governor, the DPS, and the OAB. The program uses the EAS system and is a partner in the Amber Alert Web Portal Consortium to achieve faster dissemination of Amber alerts to a wider audience. The Consortium uses the Internet, e-mail, fax machines, pagers, cell phones, weather radio, radio, television, and highway signs to disseminate alert information. The satellite feature would be one more way to distribute information.

The goal of the Amber Alert program is to get the message out to as many avenues as possible as soon as possible. The new Web-based system has the capability to be more specific about the location, calculating where the abductor might be in view of how much time has elapsed since the kidnapping, and sending alerts to devices and agencies in that area.

Officials say that when a child is abducted, a rapid response can be crucial. The Department of Justice reports that three of four abducted children who are killed are killed within the first three hours.

SBC Communications has supported the Amber Alert program for two years through a network paging system that sends Amber Alerts to field technicians.

The $1 million SBC Excelerator national grant program was jointly announced in August by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Ed Whitacre, chairman and CEO of SBC Communications Inc. Marc Klaas, a nationwide advocate for the protection of missing children and father of Polly Klaas who was kidnapped and murdered, joined Senator Hutchison and Mr. Whitacre in making the announcement.

The Amber Alert program was created in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, TX, and then murdered.

On September 3, 2002, Senator. Hutchison, co-introduced legislation to establish a nationwide communications-warning network in child abduction cases. Her proposal was signed into law by President George W. Bush on April 20, 2003 as part of the PROTECT Act.

The SBC Foundation, the charitable giving arm of SBC Communications, Inc., celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2004. In the past two decades, SBC Communications and the SBC Foundation have contributed more than $1 billion to nonprofit organizations and affiliates across the country.

Updated 11-24-2004

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