Early-morning motorists on Idahos interstates saw it
for only about a minute. Television viewers saw the scrolling
message briefly at the bottom of their screen while they watched
infomercials, sitcom reruns or B-rated movies.
At 1:40 a.m. Tuesday (MDT), while most Idahoans slept soundly,
the states Amber Alert System was thoroughly tested
from variable message boards on I-84 in southern Idaho
to I-90 in Kootenai County, and on television and radio stations
The early-morning experiment enabled a full test without
unnecessarily alarming motorists and television viewers.
Coordinated by the Idaho Bureau of Disaster Services (Homeland
Security), the message was relayed to the State Communications
Center in Meridian for activation. Other activation centers
included the Idaho State Police in Pocatello for eastern Idaho;
Central Idaho Regional Communications Center in Jerome for
central Idaho; and the Kootenai County 911 Center in Coeur
dAlene for northern Idaho, said Kathy Bessey, a supervisor
at the State Communications center.
Portions of Malheur County in Oregon, and Washingtons
Whitman and Spokane counties also participated.
The Idaho Lottery system was tested Monday. Actual alert
messages would be printed on the backs of lottery tickets
and posted at approximately 900 lottery ticket outlets in
Idaho. The Boise office of the National Weather Service serves
as a back-up to State Communications in southwest Idaho. It
was not involved in the actual test this week.
The states Emergency Alert System (EAS), a network
that provides a broad range of emergency information
from thunderstorms and rain to floods is used to disseminate
the message, explains Vicki Miller, coordinator for the Bureau
of Disaster Services. Participation by radio and television
stations is voluntary.
Many had to acquire new software during the past year to
upgrade their systems and receive the Amber Alert code.
The message was, in part: This is a test of the Idaho
Amber Alert System. In the event of an actual child abduction
emergency, important information would have been relayed through
this channel or station
The test was initiated with a mock abduction scenario in
Pocatello. The process included verification that information
satisfied alert criteria, notification of Amber Alert partners,
message dissemination, variable message sign tests, and tests
of the backup notification system.
From the initial call to Pocatello to implementation, the
test took about six minutes, Miller said. Alerts appeared
on ITDs variable message signs after about four minutes.
Four criteria must be met before information is released
over the Amber Alert System, Bessey explains.