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CALL 6: Glitches delayed Amber Alert for toddler

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-13 22:38:30-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Amber Alert for a toddler abducted at gunpoint was delayed for more than an hour Tuesday – and was received as a garbled, digitized voice message by many once it was sent. 

Police put out an urgent alert Tuesday for 15-month-old Timothy Jackson Jr., who was taken from his foster home by two males around 12:30 a.m. The suspects were armed with sawed-off shotguns and had their faces covered.

RELATED | Gary toddler abducted at gunpoint from foster home

An Amber Alert was formally issued for Jackson just before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. State police use a system to trigger the emergency alert system, the same system you hear long beeps from when severe weather hits. 

The current Amber Alert policy requires state police to declare the alert and then send it out through the EAS system. The same policy stands for other civil emergencies, like sheltering-in-place or evacuations.

But on Tuesday night, a link between state police and Central Indiana’s designated EAS station stopped working.

That designated EAS station is responsible for receiving the emergency alert and sending it through to all other radio and television stations in the area.

Because of a series of technical glitches, state police officials were forced to drive to the designated EAS station and send out the alert live from there. Logs at RTV6 show we first received that transmission at 9:23 p.m., almost an hour after the alert had been first declared by state police.

But that emergency message also experienced another glitch: People said they saw the “child abduction emergency” alert on their television screens at home or heard it in the car, but the voice was garbled.

State police said that glitch was caused by “an open carrier on the line” that caused some stations and providers to receive a digitized message.

In this particular case, police say the Amber Alert didn't contribute to finding the child safely. Detectives on the ground in Gary were already chasing a lead by the time the alert was declared.

When 1-year-old Shaylyn Ammerman was reported stolen from her crib, no Amber Alert was ever issued. Many of you asked why.

Read what Call 6 Investigates discovered.

The Indiana Broadcasters Association plays a key part in making sure all the broadcasters in the state are communicating about the Emergency Alert System. The President of the Indiana Broadcasters Association tells Call 6 that this is a wake-up call and more testing of the emergency alert system needs to be done so these problems never happen again.

Engineers from the state and the radio station were in communication Wednesday with the FCC and were working to identify and fix the problems.

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