The AMBER Alert Plan
What Is the AMBER Alert Plan?
The AMBER Alert Plan is a tool that law enforcement agencies can use to safely recover abducted children. It should be one component of the law enforcement agency’s broader child recovery plan.
The AMBER Alert Plan is a voluntary partnership among law enforcement agencies, media outlets, and transportation agencies. This partnership focuses on the recovery of abducted children by disseminating timely and accurate information about the child, the suspected abductor, and the vehicle used in the commission of the crime. Through AMBER Alert, law enforcement agencies and broadcasters activate an urgent news bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System (EAS), formerly called the Emergency Broadcast System, to air a description of the missing child and suspected abductor. Under appropriate circumstances, transportation authorities can use changeable message signs
(CMS) to communicate important AMBER Alert information to motorists.
How Does the AMBER Alert Plan Work?
Once law enforcement is notified about an abducted child, it first determines if the case meets the AMBER Alert Plan’s criteria for triggering an alert. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) suggests that the following criteria be met before an alert is activated:
Law enforcement believes an abduction has occurred.
The child is 17 years old or younger.
Law enforcement believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Sufficient descriptive information about the victim and the abduction exists to believe that an
immediate AMBER Alert broadcast will help.
The child’s name and other critical information, including the fact that the case is considered a
child abduction, have been entered into the NCIC system.
If these criteria are met, alert information is put together and faxed to media outlets designated as primary
stations under EAS, which in turn send the same information to area radio, television, and cable systems
where it is broadcast to millions of listeners. Radio stations interrupt programming to announce the alert
and television and cable stations run a “crawl” on the screen with a picture of the missing child. CMS can
also be used to display information to motorists.
For more information about the AMBER Alert Plan, visit DOJ’s Web site at www.amberalert.gov.
Is an AMBER Alert Issued for Every Missing Child?
AMBER Alerts are issued by a law enforcement agency in cooperation with the media if the circumstances
surrounding the child’s disappearance meet local or state AMBER Alert criteria. If the
circumstances do not meet the criteria, remember that the media can still be called on to help in the
recovery of your child. See chapter 3 (The Media).
If we could have gotten the word out immediately when
Morgan disappeared, I’m certain she would be home with
me today. With the AMBER Alert Plan . . . time is now
on the side of every parent and child.