A new FEMA program took many by surprise last night with one of the first Amber Alert distributed via cell phone to hit the Bay Area. The alert is for Hannah Anderson, 16, and Ethan Anderson, 8, who law enforcement officials believe were kidnapped by James Lee Dimaggio in rural San Diego.
Cell phones across California rang out with a jarring EAS tone Monday night as police issued the first statewide Amber Alert using FEMA's new system targeting handsets. Cell phones across California rang out with a jarring Emergency Alert System tone late Monday night as police issued the first statewide Amber Alert using FEMA's new national emergency broadcasting system for handsets.
Uncertainty about DiMaggio's whereabouts and heading prompted police to issue the alert to all California cell phones, the first time state authorities have done so using expanded EAS capabilities, which FEMA began rolling out more than two years ago.

Amber Alerts using the new system are generally sent to phones in the immediate vicinity of an incident.
But sometimes an EAS alert is sent to cell phone users located far from an incident, as was the case with an Amber Alert issued in Florida in January, which went out to people who lived hours away from the incident in question. In addition to Amber Alerts, FEMA will distribute information on extreme weather, regional emergencies and presidential alerts during a national emergency with the program.
In addition to Amber Alerts, FEMA's nationwide Emergency Alert System was designed to notify people via wireless carrier networks of weather-related dangers and other potential emergencies.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the system had been used to send nearly two dozen Amber Alerts in Texas, Ohio, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

On Tuesday, commenters on LAist were engaged in a heated debate over whether the statewide use of the Emergency Alert System's wireless messaging capabilities was appropriate in this particular case.

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