A change in how information regarding abducted children will be disseminated will take place at the start of the new year.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, The Wireless Foundation, The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, and Syniverse announced the wireless AMBER alerts program will end operations effective Dec. 31, 2012, as a part of the nation’s transition to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program.

CTIA and the wireless industry joined the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer WEA to supplement the existing Emergency Alert System.

Consumers with WEA-capable smartphones and feature phones/services are automatically enrolled to receive AMBER alerts for free, along with the Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts.

The messages will be restricted to 90 characters.

Therefore, subscribers will receive a message indicating an AMBER alert has been issued and vehicle information if available. The message will tell subscribers to check local media for more information.

The 700,000 wireless customers currently enrolled in wireless AMBER alerts will receive text messages about the transition and alternative sources for receiving AMBER alerts. For more information about the alternative sources, visit http://www.missingkids.com/ambersignup/.

Unlike wireless AMBER alerts, the WEA AMBER alerts use the latest technology to send messages to wireless customers with WEA-capable devices in the area where a child has been abducted, even if the wireless customer is not from the area.

For example, if a Chicago resident was visiting Boston and a WEA AMBER alert was issued in Boston, the subscriber would receive the alert. At the same time, if an alert was issued in Chicago, the subscriber would not receive it while in Boston.

The wireless industry launched the wireless AMBER alerts program in 2005 because its members believed its technology could expand the alerts’ reach to aid in the recovery of abducted children.

Before the wireless program, AMBER alerts were issued via television, radio and Department of Transportation highway signs when a child was believed to have been abducted and in extreme danger.

Statistics show that the first three hours after an abduction are the most critical in recovery efforts, and being able to quickly engage the public in the search for an abducted child can help law enforcement bring that child home safely.

The Office of Justice Program’s AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) alert program, named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, is a voluntary partnership among law enforcement agencies, the wireless industry, transportation officials, broadcasters and other entities to activate an urgent bulletin to find abducted children.

WEA information is available online at http://bit.ly/MTjpsg and AMBER alerts information is available online at http://ctia.it/RzEVLN.