What is a Blue Alert and why did you get one on your phone?


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- What is a blue alert?

This is a question we looked into in 2018 when local residents got an alert on their phone.

Fast forward to August 2019, and people in Tennessee once again got a blue alert.

MORE HERE: TBI issues Blue Alert for prison escapee, person of interest in TDOC employee’s homicide

Here is our previous story from 2018 about the criteria for Blue Alerts. You can also watch the video above for more information.


The manhunt for a suspect named Steven Wiggins prompted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to push out what’s called a Blue Alert.

TBI said Wiggins is accused of killing Dickson County deputy Daniel Baker Wednesday morning.

Wednesday’s was only the second Blue Alert issued since the program began in 2011.

Many of you have had questions – What exactly is a Blue Alert? And why did you get one on your phone here in the Tri-Cities?

A Blue Alert works almost exactly like an Amber Alert.

You probably noticed your cell phone buzzing or ringing Wednesday, and a message on the screen about an armed and dangerous man. The alert was issued statewide by the TBI, because they say the suspect Wiggins could be anywhere. A TBI spokesperson said they are asking residents across the state to be on the lookout for him.

If you didn’t know exactly what the alert was on your phone, you’re not alone.

“We all got the alert and assumed it was an Amber Alert,” said Laura Dyck, who lives in Kingsport.

“I get the Amber Alerts a lot. But the Blue Alert, this is the first one I have ever received,” said Judy McMillan, a Kingsport resident.

The Blue Alert was issued Wednesday by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, warning the public about the shooting death of a Middle Tennessee deputy, and helping them track down the suspect who was at large.

The TBI says in order to activate a Blue Alert, certain criteria must be met, including: a sworn law enforcement officer is killed or seriously injured, the suspect poses an imminent threat to public safety, and police have a detailed description of the suspect or vehicle involved.

“We have heard about the Blue Alert before,” said Kristen Quon with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. “At this point it’s not something that we’ve ever had to consider either and we hope that we never have to.”

But Wednesday’s notification had some people here, on edge.

“I thought, ‘Okay TBI is looking for this man. Where is he at? Is he in Kingsport? I hope not,”‘ McMillan said.

“We would have liked for a county or something to have been mentioned,” said Dyck.

Those concerns about a specific location are something the TBI says they’ve heard loud and clear.

Moving forward, the agency says they’ll do what they can to make improvements.

An important note from the TBI – the system to send out that Blue Alert only allows the TBI to use 90 characters to share the information they say they feel is most important.

The alert, they say, is meant to connect you with a news site or social media platform for more information.

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