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Technology has benefits

You probably already know about ICE, the acronym for “in case of emergency” by which cell-phone users are encouraged to store emergency contact information under those letters on their keypads.

Now comes another advance in emergency communications - the ability to receive Amber Alerts on your cell phone and other wireless communications devices.

An Amber Alert is a police warning to be on the watch for an abducted child. Saturating the media - now including personal communications devices - with information about the missing child increases the odds that the child can be spotted and rescued.

In one Central Virginia case, a child was given up by her alleged abductor simply because he heard about the alert. Apparently, he reasoned that the odds were so high that some citizen would see him and the child and report them to police, he might as well give up.

Five children have been safely recovered as a direct result of the Amber Alert network since it went into effect in 1997.

Major wireless providers are making the cell phone and PDA service available free of charge.

Subscribers with the ability to receive text messages can register at the Web site www.wirelessamberalerts.com, designating up to five zip codes from which they would like to receive the alerts.

As for ICE? If you haven’t already taken advantage of that option, now may be the time.

Everyone should keep information with them about whom to contact in case of emergency. If you are incapacitated, rescue personnel or police need to know whom to call. Your emergency contacts are likely to have important information, such as details about your medical history that could be crucial.

Store contact information under the letters I, C and E. Emergency personnel know to look for it there.

However, say emergency authorities, ICE information should not substitute for the usual avenues for listing emergency contacts. Cell phones may be damaged or lost in an accident, for instance, or may be blocked by passwords.

Continue to keep contact information in written form in your purse or wallet.

The nature of things

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality was right to recommend further environmental study of a proposed wind farm in Highland County.

The DEQ says more information is needed about how the giant turbines will affect birds and bats. After the windmills are built, they should be monitored for such effect - including search and retrieval of carcasses.

It also recommends study of how the proposed 19 windmills, 400 feet tall each, would affect scenic views.

The study would have to be done by the developer.

The State Corporation Commission is responsible for approving or rejecting the project. But the DEQ knows that more information on environmental impact is needed and has the wisdom to suggest the right questions.

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