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Why were multiple Blue Alerts sent to Tennessee cell phones?

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into why duplicate alerts were sent to cell phones after two officer-involved shootings.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee residents received multiple emergency alerts on their phones on Tuesday mentioning a Blue Alert, but not providing many additional details beyond that.

That left cell phone users asking asking - what even is a Blue Alert, and why were so many duplicate emergency messages sent?

What is a Blue Alert?

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a Blue Alert is issued when a law enforcement officer is either killed or sustains life-threatening injuries in the line of duty. 

Before the alert is issued, the suspect must still be deemed as a threat to police, a description of the suspect must be available, felony warrants must be issued, and a law enforcement official has to request the alert. All of these criteria must be met for a Blue Alert to be issued.

This alert is sent out in the same way as an AMBER Alert for missing children, including through cell phones and interstate message boards.

Two separate officer-involved shootings triggered statewide alerts this week. Late Monday night, an officer was shot in Hendersonville, and a separate officer was shot in Erin hours later.

Both officers are reported to be in non-critical condition and are expected to survive. 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the decision was made to send the alerts after both suspects fled the respective scenes armed with weapons, posing a threat to public safety. 

In a statement, the TBI said they only sent each Blue Alert once, but some users reported getting up to 12 duplicate alerts, some up to 24 hours after the suspects no longer posed a threat.

The TBI said this could be the result of issues with particular cell phone providers, signal strength, or certain settings. They also said that if you leave the state and come back, you could receive a duplicate alert.

Residents expressed frustration with the duplicate alerts, some of which came as early in the morning as 2:30am. Since the alerts were labeled as "extreme emergencies", some phones produced a loud alarm while many were sleeping.

Some social media users said the repetitive messages led them to deactivate their phone's emergency alerts, which also turns off severe weather alerts, AMBER Alerts for missing children, and other emergency messages.

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