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Hydro worker's idea follows line directly to premier's office

B.C. Hydro lineman Brian Gueldenstern wanted to help families when he suggested AMBER Alerts be texted to hydro employees in the field. The idea caught the attention of Premier Christy Clark, who announced Friday that 30,000 civil servants will also receive the alerts directly. - TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin
B.C. Hydro lineman Brian Gueldenstern wanted to help families when he suggested AMBER Alerts be texted to hydro employees in the field. The idea caught the attention of Premier Christy Clark, who announced Friday that 30,000 civil servants will also receive the alerts directly.
— image credit: TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin

Brian Gueldenstern's idea of helping abducted children went straight up the line all the way to the premier's office.

Gueldenstern, a Nanaimo-based lineman for B.C. Hydro and father of two, said he wanted to do more to help children who had been taken from their homes.

Last fall, when  three-year-old Kienan Hebert was abducted from his home in Sparwood, Gueldenstern passed out copies of the vehicle description and licence plate to fellow workers, asking them to keep an eye out.

At a following safety meeting, Gueldenstern suggested to his managers that workers provincewide could be advised of AMBER Alerts directly through their cellphones, an idea that made its way to Premier Christy Clark.

On Friday, Clark followed through, announcing that a government-wide initiative will see 30,000 civil servants receive the alerts on their work computers and mobile devices on a 24-hour basis.

Crown corporations B.C. Hydro, ICBC and B.C. Transit will also update their systems to provide the alerts to employees.

"Because we're out on the road all day long, we're in a great position to keep an eye out for something like a specific vehicle," said Gueldenstern. "Sometimes it's hard to pick a face out of a crowd, but a vehicle and plate are pretty easy to spot. Fortunately, Kienan had a happy ending. After that, I made the suggestion of texting the AMBER Alert because I knew it was being used in other parts of the world."

Clark made the announcement in Vancouver with Gueldenstern, Attorney General Shirley Bond, RCMP Chief Supt. Wayne Rideout, and Crystal Dunahee, president of ChildFind B.C. and mother of Michael Dunahee, who went missing more than 20 years ago.

"There is nothing to compare with the terror a parent feels when their child goes missing," said Clark. "The AMBER Alert expansion will see 30,000 extra sets of eyes all over B.C. looking for a child – helping them get back to their families faster, and making this tool more effective so police can do their job."

AMBER Alerts will also be spread via the provincial government's social media sites, including the Emergency Info BC site and Twitter feed at @EmergencyInfoBC.

The first phase of the expansion will be completed by May 25, International Missing Children's Day.

"As with technology everything must change or it becomes stale and forgotten," said Dunahee. "This new enhancement to the AMBER Alert by the B.C. government is a move in the right direction. On behalf of all parents of missing children, thank you."

Gueldenstern said talking with Dunahee was an emotional experience.

"Let me tell you, that's pretty sad. I'm not a teary guy, but being around her brought tears to my eyes. She's had 20 years of sorrow and it's awful," he said, adding that if it was his children in trouble, he'd want as many people helping as possible.

At least one private corporation is also taking part. London Drugs will provide the alerts to its employees. Clark challenged other private sector organizations to join the government in a united effort.

Since 2004 when the program began, 12 AMBER Alerts involving 15 children have been activated in B.C. All 15 children were located.

B.C. residents can sign up to receive AMBER Alerts by text message at www.wirelessAMBER.ca.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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