Need for a Partnership
AMBER Alert's success is tied directly to the quality of the
partnership established among law enforcement agencies, broadcast
and other media outlets, departments of transportation, state and
federal officials, and various civic and political leaders. Each
partner is important, and each has a unique role to play. Similarly,
each partnership has its unique characteristics based on the community
in which it was created, yet each forms an essential link in the
larger fabric of the nation's AMBER Alert program.
At the most basic level, partners need to understand their exact
responsibilities in their community's AMBER Alert recovery plan.
Partners can avoid duplication of effort if they understand the
exact responsibilities of their colleagues as well.
Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)
The process of creating a local, state, or regional AMBER Alert
plan is complex, and no two plans will evolve in exactly the same
way. Even so, officials in one community can find it helpful to
learn about the issues that other communities have confronted and
the solutions they found to resolve them. Some elements are common
to all plans, and a clear, precise, and thorough definition of
each partner's roles and responsibilities is one such element.
To ensure a smoothly running program, potential legal issues or
concerns should be explored and resolved in advance, if at all
possible. A memorandum of understanding, or MOU, can form the basis
for long-term agreement on roles and responsibilities before a
final AMBER Alert plan is enacted. AMBER coordinators and their
partners agree that, at a minimum, an MOU should detail the following:
- Specific roles of all the partners, including law enforcement
agencies, broadcast and other media outlets, departments of transportation,
various governmental organizations, nonprofit agencies, and other
organizations with a child welfare focus.
- A requirement that law enforcement confirm that an abduction
has taken place and that the risk of harm to the child is significant.
- Criteria for ensuring that key information has been entered
into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system and
corresponding state or local databases before an AMBER
Alert is requested.
- Criteria for activation of an AMBER Alert, including the age
of the child and other critical information.
- Confidential systems and codes for use by law enforcement
and broadcasters in activating an AMBER Alert.
- A system for disseminating Alerts, with regular tests to ensure
the system's integrity.
- Appropriate wording to be used in disseminating an AMBER Alert
to the public.
- Procedures for determining the frequency of broadcast Alerts,
how long the Alerts should continue, and when and how Alerts
should be deactivated.
- Procedures for determining the kind of Alert to be used, such
as an EAS activation, a "crawl" at the bottom of a television
screen, or a news announcement.
- The role of secondary media outlets, such as newspapers and
other print media.
- The role of other secondary outlets, such as taxi companies,
public transportation systems, and cable or power companies.
- The use of road signs, if available, and the wording to be
used to tie the information back to broadcast Alerts.
- A mechanism for "all-clear" notifications.
AMBER coordinators and their partners identified a second key
element common to effective plans: a formal process evaluation
following every Alert activation to assess process issues, including
the quality of communication and technology. The best plans require
that a follow-up meeting of key partners be scheduled after every
Alert activation to discuss these questions:
- How successful was the Alert activation process? What worked
well? What needs attention?
- How effectively did the equipment function?
- Did any expected problems arise during the Alert process,
and what was done to resolve them?
- Did any expected gaps surface during the Alertsuch as
the need for additional training, equipment, or other technology
requirementsthat need to be addressed?
- Does the plan need to be changed in any way in the wake of
the Alert activation?
These are just some of the issues that should be discussed during
the After-Action review to ensure that the AMBER Alert program
is operating as specified in the MOU and agreed on by partner agencies