Arizona AMBER Alert commemorates 10 years

Arizona AMBER Alert commemorates 10 years


Arizona AMBER Alert commemorates 10 years

Arizona AMBER Alert commemorates 10 years

September 25, 2012
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Hard to believe, but 10 years have passed since the first AMBER Alert was issued in Arizona…

In that time, 70 AMBER Alerts have been issued in the state and all but one – the ongoing Jhessye Shockley case – were resolved successfully through a partnership between local radio and television broadcasters, law enforcement, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the public.

AMBER, which stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” was launched in Arizona in 2002 as part of a nationwide push to establish the safety net.

The activation system uses the Emergency Alert System as the backbone through all local radio and televisions in the state. Pertinent information also is posted over Arizona highways on Dynamic Message Signs and on by ADOT.

AMBER Alerts are sent quickly utilizing email and text messaging. The oversight committee is comprised of law enforcement and representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Arizona Broadcasters Association and the Attorney General’s Office.

“This is a partnership-based system that relies on collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as interest from members of the community” said Art Brooks, president and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, who chairs the Arizona AMBER Alert oversight committee. “Thankfully, Arizona has had a positive record in recovering abducted children – that’s a trend we expect to continue into the future.”

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a key partner in the operation of the AMBER Alert system. The DPS duty office is specifically tasked with operating AMBER Alert.

Before an AMBER Alert notification is issued, law enforcement agencies must be able to answer key questions, including: Is this an abduction of a child under the age of 18? Does the abduction pose an immediate credible threat of serious bodily injury or death to the child? Are detectives convinced the child is not a runaway and the abduction is not the result of a child custody dispute?

Knowing that time is of the essence in child abduction cases, DPS-trained personnel work with reporting police agencies to make sure that if an AMBER Alert is issued, the most accurate information is put out.

“DPS officers take their role very seriously in their operation of the AMBER Alert system. In the past 10 years, this has been an important tool in the investigation of child abduction cases. We commend our partners, the Arizona Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office in making AMBER Alert a successful statewide program that directly links law enforcement with the community,” said Robert Halliday, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

About the AMBER Alert System
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, since its creation in 1996, the AMBER Alert program has helped to find and safely recover more than 490 abducted children. Today, all 50 states have AMBER Alert plans.

On Jan. 13, 1996, Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered. The AMBER Alert network was created after her tragic death. AMBER Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and abductor that could lead to the child’s recovery, such as physical description and information about the abductor’s vehicle.

The AMBER Alert program began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children.

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions


Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

Attenuators designed to take the impact of vehicle collisions

December 20, 2011

An example of a fixed attenuator
that has been hit.

Back in July we told you all about truck-mounted attenuators and how vital they are to the safety of ADOT employees and drivers out on the road. 

But, there’s another type of attenuator that acts on the same principle and does just as much to protect motorists...

Instead of being attached to a truck, fixed attenuators are placed at the end of barrier walls on the freeway. You’ll see them near off-ramps or medians and anywhere a barrier wall comes to an end.

Like truck-mounted attenuators, fixed attenuators will take the impact of a vehicle collision and absorb a lot of the energy from a crash.

This is by no means a physics blog, but a basic grasp of how energy works is needed to understand attenuators …

A vehicle’s speed and size determine how much energy it has. Normally, this energy is dissipated by your brakes, which burn off that energy slowly, allowing you to come to a safe stop.

But, if a vehicle stops by crashing into a wall, the energy is dispersed very suddenly, resulting in a car that’s crushed. Attenuators won't exactly give a soft landing, but they do work to dissipate the energy slowly like your brakes do. Various attenuators do this by different methods.

There are a few different types of fixed attenuators; however most of them will look pretty similar to drivers.

Some of the brands are built on a rail and have several compartments that hold Styrofoam blocks to absorb the impact. When a vehicle crashes into it, this type of attenuator, also known as G.R.E.A.T.s and QuadGuards, will collapse a compartment at a time and the blocks will disperse the energy. ADIEM's are made of a gypsum type composite that sit on top of an inclined base.

Another attenuator brand, known as the SCI Smart Cushion, is very similar, but instead of Styrofoam, these types of attenuators use a cable and hydraulic ram to absorb the energy.

Location and the area’s speed limit help determine which brand attenuator gets placed in certain spots.

Once an attenuator is hit by a vehicle, it needs to be fixed. ALERT Commander Tom Donithan says repairs vary depending on the type of attenuator and the severity of the crash.

Repairs to the types of attenuators designed to use Styrofoam blocks call for replacement of the blocks and other components.

Generally, the SCI Smart Cushion requires pulling the system back out and the replacement of a few bolts after it has been hit. The front shield also usually is replaced (see photo above).

Typically ADOT crews repair about five attenuators a month in the Valley region. If they’re badly damaged enough, they’ll need to be replaced and Donithan says that happens about three or four times a year in the Valley.

“They all perform the same duty, which is to protect the public from the blunt end of a barrier wall” said Donithan, adding that attenuators perform their job well and that there are very few times that his team comes across an attenuator crash where the driver doesn’t walk away.  “That’s why they’re out there, because they do their job”

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision


Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

Overnight emergency repairs follow I-10 tanker collision

November 18, 2011

I-10 was closed most of the day and night last Wednesday after two tanker trucks collided near Chandler Boulevard south of downtown Phoenix.

For hours, many drivers could see the resulting column of black smoke. Even more people saw footage and photos of the collision’s aftermath on the news and online.

What most didn’t see was the effort it took to reopen the freeway less than 24 hours after the fatal crash, which not only snarled traffic during the morning rush hour, but also severely damaged the road.


ADOT’s ALERT Team arrived on the scene shortly after the 8 a.m. crash. The crew worked with other agencies to close a portion of I-10, divert traffic and create a safe location for all the emergency responders.

Even once the fire was out, work to clear the wreckage couldn’t begin for several hours because of the extremely high level of fuel vapors in the air. Once the vapors dissipated (which, with very little wind, took close to four hours), two additional tankers were brought in to remove the fuel that remained in the burned tanker.

Once the Fire Department cleared the scene, the wreckage was cleared and work could begin on repairing the road’s surface.

It was determined that repaving the badly damaged area immediately was the best way to maintain a safe, drivable surface while avoiding a future closure of the heavily traveled Interstate. Late Wednesday afternoon, ADOT worked to line up the contractors and resources needed to accomplish the repair work.

“We didn’t want to leave bad pavement for tomorrow’s morning traffic to drive on,” says ALERT Commander Tom Donithan.

By about 8:00 Wednesday evening, the section of road was milled with a machine that basically pulverizes the damaged asphalt into an “almost powder,” according to Donithan in the video above.

Once the road was milled and the old asphalt was swept away, a new layer of asphalt was put down.

Not long after that, at about 2:30 a.m., striping trucks were able to re-stripe the road and westbound I-10 between Loop 202 and Chandler Boulevard reopened to traffic at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Attenuators offer safety on the freeway

Attenuators offer safety on the freeway


Attenuators offer safety on the freeway

Attenuators offer safety on the freeway

July 6, 2011

Attenuators act as a barrier between traffic and ADOT crews. Check out the slide show below to see how attenuators take an impact.

Sometimes the simplest concepts work the best.

Take for example the truck-mounted attenuator. Maybe you aren’t too familiar with them, but chances are you’ve seen one when driving on the freeway.

They’re the big rectangle-shaped “boxes” attached to the back of certain ADOT trucks. And, while the attenuators may not look fancy or impressive, they save lives.

“Anytime we’re going to be working on the side of the road, we use them,” said ADOT Maintenance Superintendent/ALERT Supervisor Tom Donithan.

Inside the attenuator “box” is just a honeycomb configuration of aluminum, Styrofoam and air space, according to Donithan.

Attenuators act as a kind of shield that stands between freeway traffic and ADOT crews. If a motorist travels into a freeway work site they’ll hit the attenuator instead of a heavy truck, or ADOT workers.

While it’s likely not a soft landing, the attenuator is designed to take the impact and crumples together as it absorbs the energy of the vehicle.

“They do their job. We don’t go on the road without them,” Donithan said.

ADOT has been using the truck-mounted attenuators since 1990 and Donithan says typically at least one gets hit each year – but there have been four hit so far this year.

Truck-mounted attenuators are for the protection of drivers and the ADOT employees working on the roads. They’re so useful that Donithan says if an attenuator isn’t available, then his crews will wait until one is ready before heading out to the freeway.

“We take it very seriously because it is our lives and our co-workers lives,” he said. “If you didn’t have the attenuator there, your chances are much higher if you do take a hit, that hit is going to cost someone’s life.”