Early Saturday morning, many students woke up to a 5 a.m. alarm they did not set. The alert was no accident; it was an Amber Alert for a missing 6-year-old girl.

The Michigan State Police issued the Amber Alert as part of an ongoing search for Hailey Betts, who was potentially in danger at the time. This was the first time the state police had used a system to deliver the alert through mobile phones. Though Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser told MLive he has heard some complaints about the early morning alert, he said it was crucial to spread the information quickly.

“If it was their 6-year-old girl, they’d want us to do everything in our powers to make sure their girl was safe,” Kaiser said. “Time is of the essence in something like this.”

The alert included the model and license plate number of a truck the police suspected the girl might be in. The alert was sent to all cell phones in a 200-mile radius of Flint, where the girl was reported missing. Thousands of people were notified of the details of Betts’ case.

Betts was located at about 11 a.m. Saturday and the alert was subsequently canceled. Betts was found unharmed at an apartment complex in Port Huron with her father, according to MLive.

Sergeant Sarah Krebs, who works in the state police’s Missing Persons Coordination Unit, said the Amber Alert played a key role in locating the girl. She went on to specify a few of the many ways Amber Alerts can be sent out.

“They can be done by regions, or you can do a radius of so many miles from the epicenter of where the child was missing, which is what they did in this case,” Krebs said. “You can also alert it statewide, meaning everywhere in the state of Michigan will get the alert.”

Though Amber Alerts intend to inform people of missing children, Krebs said not all missing children fit the criteria the state police follows for issuing an Amber Alert. The police must determine the child — which they define as below 17 years of age — is at risk for serious bodily harm or death. Police must also believe an immediate broadcast through an Amber Alert would decrease the chances of harm to the child.

Other factors in determining the necessity of an Amber Alert include if the child suffers from mental or physical disabilities that impair his or her ability to care for himself or herself.

It was believed that Betts’ father had kidnapped her. Though he is her parent, Krebs said he could still be seen as a kidnapper in certain circumstances.

“The parent has to have put them in some great bodily harm and risk of death,” Krebs said.

Amber Alerts are only one of several ways authorities employ the Wireless Emergency Alert system. Other alerts include extreme weather and other threatening emergencies. Even presidential alerts can be sent out during a national emergency. The alerts appear like a text message, except with a unique tone and vibration. Amber Alerts and weather alerts can be turned off on some phones, but presidential messages cannot.

The University also has its own methods to alert students of possible danger. The Division of Public Safety and Security sends out the types of alerts that inform students of potential danger.

The first way the University warns students is through its Emergency Alert System which is a mass, urgent notification system that can notify students, faculty and staff of any major campus emergency. These emergencies could include, but are not limited to, when an active shooter is at large, when there is a tornado warning for the county or when there is a large, hazardous spill on campus.

The second type of alert is a Crime Alert. A Crime Alert is sent out by DPSS when a crime has been reported to the law enforcement and DPSS believes it is important to warn the University community.

DPSS spokesperson Diane Brown said the Emergency Alert System is used when students need to take action, whereas the Crime Alerts are meant merely to inform students.

“The Emergency Alerts are used when there’s something that people need to do,” Brown said. “We don’t put Crime Alerts out on the emergency system, because the whole campus doesn’t necessarily have to take shelter or be aware or anything. They need to be aware of it, they need to know that there was still a threat. It doesn’t mean that everybody has to suddenly lock down and evacuate.”

Follow-up notifications are sent out at the discretion of DPSS. The Emergency Alert System may be used to update students when it is safe to continue with their day or when severe weather has passed, for example.

The two alerts are implemented as part of the Clery Act, which requires universities and colleges participating in federal financial aid programs to disclose information about crimes that may affect students in any way.

“We have a legal obligation to tell people, which is why it’s different than the police in your hometown,” Brown said. “They don’t have a legal requirement to tell people about crimes, but we do. The crime alerts and the emergency alerts are part of that requirement.”

Students may elect to receive Emergency Alert texts if they register their phone number on Wolverine Access. All students, faculty and staff also receive an e-mail with details of the emergency. Individuals can also check the University’s website and Twitter feed.

Though the alert is spread through many different mediums, Brown believes the best option for students is to sign up to receive texts and phone calls. She said she believes the number of students who do so is not high enough.

“We’ve never gotten over 40-percent penetration of people signing up for the text messages and phone calls,” Brown said. “We would strongly recommend that people register, because we rarely use them, but they are important.”

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