PEI

P.E.I.'s 1st-ever Amber Alert brought 'really good feedback'

The person who pushed the button Monday to send out P.E.I.’s first-ever Amber Alert says the process went as well as could be expected.

Process was triggered by mistaken abduction report in Summerside

Tanya Mullally, P.E.I.'s provincial emergency management co-ordinator, says Monday was the first time an Amber Alert was sent that wasn't just a test. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

The person who pushed the button Monday to send out P.E.I.'s first-ever Amber Alert says it went as well as could be expected.

Tanya Mullally, P.E.I.'s provincial emergency management co-ordinator, said they have sent out test alerts in the past, but Monday was the first time since the program started in 2015 that she sent the real thing to Islanders' TVs, phones and radios.

"What we hear from public today is that they received it, they shared it and they're much more aware of what to expect in these types of public alerts," she said. 

"We got really good feedback from the public and police."

The first Amber Alert was sent out shortly after 1 p.m. when Summerside police received a call from a woman who said she had seen what she believed to be a 12-year-old girl yelling out the window of a car that she was being kidnapped.

A second alert was sent out at about 7:15 p.m. with a description of the vehicle police were trying to locate.

When police call us and say we want to issue an Amber Alert, we just say: 'What do you want us to say?' and then we just populate the document.— Tanya Mullally, Emergency Measures Organization

Shortly afterward, a Prince County woman in her 30s contacted police to say she believed she was the one they were looking for, and that it was all a misunderstanding. Police said she showed remorse for joking about being kidnapped, and no charges are pending.

Mullally said ideally, the alert would have gone out in both English and French, and the picture of the car in question would have been attached to the second alert.

She said she was working from home when she sent the second alert, and a technical glitch prevented her from adding the picture immediately, so she referred people to the Summerside police Facebook and Twitter accounts where they could see it.

The Amber Alerts appeared on Islanders' TVs, radios and cellphones. (Louise Martin/CBC)

She said because there was nobody immediately available to properly translate the message to French, it was sent in English because it was important to get something out quickly.

"The ideal situation is that we do both at the same time," she said.

Mullally said she or one of four public safety officers is always on call if an Amber Alert needs to be sent out.

Must be 'immediate and life-threatening'

She said Amber Alerts will be sent only when the circumstances are defined as "immediate and life-threatening."

She said that criteria is determined by police, and the Emergency Measures Organization doesn't question it. 

"When police call us and say we want to issue an Amber Alert, we just say, 'What do you want us to say?' and then we just populate the document."

Summerside police Sgt. Jason Blacquiere said he has no regrets about calling for the Amber Alert, even though there were no reports of a particular person being missing and it turned out to be a false alarm.

"The criteria we used was based on the information we received that there had possibly been a child abduction and we wanted to get as much information as we could out publicly to hopefully intervene, as we could if that had been the case."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Julien Lecacheur

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