Department of Public Safety investigating after Amber Alert causes confusion, jams 511 phone line
Nov 21, 2019, 5:39 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2019, 9:50 am
CLINTON, Utah – The Amber Alert that flashed across cell phone screens late Wednesday night across the Wasatch Front directed many people to the 511 phone line for more information on missing 3-week-old Audrey Westfall.
But all those calls overwhelmed the system, with many people hearing busy signals or nothing at all.
Utah Department of Public Safety Spokesperson Marissa Cote says law enforcement directs people to 511 during an Amber Alert when they do not have a vehicle description.
“Unfortunately, we did have the occurrence of too many people calling the line, and so, people did not receive the information they should have,” Cote said during a news conference on Thursday.
Cote says they review what went right and what went wrong after every Amber Alert, and they will study what happened Wednesday.
“We’re going to fix what didn’t go well. It’s important that we’re getting that information out there. We take it very seriously,” Cote said.
However, she also pointed out that other notifications like highway billboards worked without a hitch.
It’s believed Audrey Westfall’s mother, Taylor Webb, abducted her from her grandmother’s house in Clinton, Utah and may be taking her to Modesto, California.
Cote also addressed another confusing Amber Alert sent two months ago that jammed phone lines.
Cote says the “gry toyt” message was sent by South Salt Lake Police who were investigating the disappearance of a baby, who was later found safe. Cote says law enforcement agencies are no longer using shorthand in alerts because it was too confusing.