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What is a regional AMBER Alert and why doesn't it activate alerts on your cell phone?

Put simply, a regional AMBER Alert is issued when law enforcement is confident the child is still in the local area.

AUSTIN, Texas — After a regional AMBER alert was issued for a 4-year-old boy last seen in southwest Austin, many on social media wondered what a regional AMBER Alert is and why they didn't see it on their phones or road signs.

KVUE spoke with Kristen Dark with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to find out more.

Put simply, a regional AMBER Alert is issued when law enforcement is confident the child is still in the local area – or in this case, in the Austin area.

The alert activation lasts for 12 hours and is extended by 12 hours until the child is found. In Marsdan Ellis Harp's case, the regional AMBER Alert was activated by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 26 and extended the following morning at 9:30 a.m. The sheriff's office told KVUE they will reevaluate the case every 12 hours. He was found and safely returned to his father on Friday evening.

The regional AMBER Alert is issued using local emergency response tools. The Travis County Sheriff's Office reached out to law enforcement agencies within 10 surrounding counties to get the word out about Marsdan Harp and his mother, Celina Jeanne Harp. Authorities believe Celina Harp abducted Marsdan Harp. They were last seen traveling south on MoPac at FM 2244 in a dark green Ford Fusion, Texas license plate LGV 3638.

RELATED: Regional AMBER alert issued for 4-year-old abducted in southwest Austin

A regional AMBER Alert will not activate alerts on cell phones and it will not appear on road signs. The Travis County Sheriff's Office could not elaborate on why that is.

Throughout the regional AMBER Alert, the Travis County Sheriff's Office will keep in constant contact with the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS is the agency that issues state-wide AMBER Alerts. If the sheriff's office believes the child and his abductor have moved outside the region, DPS will be at the ready to trigger a state-wide AMBER Alert. If a state-wide AMBER Alert is issued, the alert will go off on cell phones and the alert will appear on roadway signs.

VIDEO: Texas teen's death sparks launch of CLEAR Alerts

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