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

Consensus of Broadcast Media

Media representatives who assisted in the development of this guide say that broadcasters who agree to provide immediate response during AMBER Alerts need a reasonable expectation that their partner agencies will fulfill all of their responsibilities in accordance with the activation plan. Some of these responsibilities can be detailed in MOU agreements.

Confidence in the AMBER Alert system will be ensured if everyone in the partnership agrees to the following:

  • Law enforcement will request an EAS activation to alert the public only when all previously established criteria have been met.

  • Law enforcement officials will provide complete, thorough information that is not legally prohibited and does not jeopardize the integrity of an investigation.

  • Law enforcement officials will recognize broadcasters' responsibility to provide the public with accurate, thorough information and to question any and all speculative reports as part of their professional duty.

  • Law enforcement officials will quickly terminate an AMBER Alert when the threat is no longer imminent or apparent.

  • Department of Transportation officials will provide timely information on road signs and will direct drivers to tune in to other sources for more detailed information.

  • News staff at other broadcast stations, cable outlets, and newspapers will be able to obtain the same immediate information for dissemination purposes.

  • The system for immediate, simultaneous dissemination (be it EAS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, phone, fax, e-mail, or some combination of these) will be detailed in the MOU.

  • The AMBER Alert message will include a phone number for the public to call.

  • Law enforcement and other authorities, such as 911 centers, will provide a method for handling the tips and inquiries called in to the phone number once an AMBER Alert has been activated.

  • EAS activation will protect the integrity of the AMBER Alert system by preventing false or other misleading transmission of information to the media that would result in the public becoming desensitized or even misled. The system for protection should include special codes and privileged activation transmissions among plan partners.

  • Activation of an AMBER Alert over the EAS will not prevent news organizations, including stations airing AMBER Alerts, from using Alert information for legitimate news purposes.

  • Information gleaned by legitimate news operations but not provided in the AMBER Alert announcement will be disseminated to the public in normal news reports. Nothing will be added to the official EAS AMBER Alert message.

  • Law enforcement will establish procedures for making information available to the following entities before issuing an Alert: media outlets; other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI (NCIC), National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), and state clearinghouses; and secondary distributors.

  • Law enforcement agencies and broadcasters will agree to make equipment and personnel available for periodic tests of the system used for broadcasting the Alert.

Verification of Information

The media understands that AMBER Alert situations are fluid and will change minute by minute. Therefore, the media has a right to expect law enforcement officials to be accessible and provide a method for reporters to verify information gathered during normal newsroom operations. Law enforcement will find it counterproductive to request an AMBER Alert if no provision is made to communicate with reporters who have legitimate news questions or even information obtained independently.

A mechanism should be in place for reporters to communicate to law enforcement any unexpected needs that could arise once an AMBER Alert has been requested. MOU agreements must be flexible enough to address issues that arise.

Previous Contents Next