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AMBER Alert, Best Practices Guide for Broadcasters and Other Media Outlets

Brief History of AMBER Alert

The idea for an early warning system was conceived in 1996 as a memorial to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and later brutally murdered. Dallas area broadcasters came up with the idea of using Emergency Alert System (EAS) equipment to rapidly relay child abduction information. Broadcasters approached local law enforcement with the concept, and America's first AMBER Alert program was born. The idea was simple: When police notified the media that a child abduction had taken place, viewers and the listening public would be notified through broadcast announcements with as much information as possible to enable the public to provide the extra eyes and ears that would increase the likelihood that a child abductor could be caught before those first three critical hours had elapsed.

The early warning concept, now called AMBER Alert, quickly spread to other communities and states. In 2002, President George W. Bush directed the U.S. Department of Justice to help every state set up its own AMBER plan. This Best Practices Guide for Broadcasters and Other Media Outlets is designed to help state, regional, and local programs develop and improve their plans and to promote consistency among all programs.

This guide is based on hours of research, correspondence, and discussion with state, regional, and local AMBER Alert coordinators and their media partners, who talked openly about their experiences and volunteered the content of their plans so that others could benefit. It presents the combined wisdom of journalists and coordinators working on the front line of the AMBER programs, who understand that no two communities or AMBER Alert programs are identical, but the goals are nevertheless the same: to create a national network of AMBER Alert plans that will work together for the good of the children.

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