Garbled Amber Alert audio has emergency managers concerned

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Washington State Emergency communications technicians want to know what went wrong with Thursday night's Amber Alert.

They said several television broadcasters complained that the audio portion of the alert broadcast over Comcast's network was inaudible. The alert was issued at 9:20 p.m. Thursday.

"It was garbled, inaudible," said Jerald Compton with the state Emergency Management Operations.

"I heard it, but, I couldn't understand a word of it," said Roy Benavente, the telecommunications coordinator.

The alert was issued after Washington State Patrol contacted emergency technicians describing an abduction of a British Columbia boy. Three-year-old Alvin Barnett of Elk Valley, B.C., was found safe Friday morning.

Technicians at the emergency center crafted the audio with the Amber Alert information and distributed it to broadcasters. They said the recording was clear as a bell, but that wasn't what Comcast viewers heard.

"We're trying to figure out how they got the signal and why it broke up. We are testing with Comcast," said Benavente.

Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp said the company has not received a rash of viewer complaints about the quality of the Amber Alert audio.

Emergency operators are concerned about the problem because the alerts are potentially a matter of life and death. Benavente called it "very frustrating."

The Washington State Patrol is hoping to meet with emergency management officials and Comcast next week to find out what went wrong and how to fix it.

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