Content of Message
By their very nature, AMBER Alert messages must be concise and
to the point. They also must be immediately understood, easily
assimilated, and quickly disseminated.
Some communities, regions, and target audiences are better approached
at a particular time of day or in a particular manner in order
to maximize the effectiveness of the message. Who better than local
broadcast media understand the particular needs of their target
Broadcasters understand that the content of the AMBER Alert message
will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of the Alert. Except
under extraordinary circumstances, an AMBER Alert message should
be no longer than one to four sentences, using the fewest words
possible without compromising clarity.
Ideally, the message should contain as many of the following
elements as possible:
- Specific information about the day, time, and location of
the incident and other details if available.
- The name, age, and sex of the abducted child.
- A physical description of the abducted child (e.g., height,
weight, birthmarks, hair color, eye color, clothing, and other
- The name, age, and sex of the suspect.
- A physical description of the suspect (e.g., height, weight,
birthmarks, hair color, eye color, clothing, and other physical
- Confirmation (if applicable) that the suspect is listed on
a state sex offender registry.
- A description of the suspect's vehicle (if applicable), including
make, model, color, and year.
- The license tag number of the suspect's vehicle, including
state of issuance.
- Toll-free telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for the public
to use to contact authorities if the suspect or child is spotted.
In addition, the following information may be helpful to include:
- Roads and highways that the suspect might use.
- Other transportation methods, such as taxi, bus, train, or
airplane, that the suspect may use.
- The town, community, or state where the suspect and abducted
child may be traveling.
- Confirmation that law enforcement considers the child to be
in imminent danger.
- Reasons why law enforcement considers the child to be in danger.
- Reasons why law enforcement thinks the suspect is traveling
to a particular destination or using a particular route.
Sensitivity to the Audience
Targeting key audiences is an important aspect of an AMBER Alert.
The goal is to notify the people who will most likely be in a position
to use the information to aid in the child's recovery.
Broadcast media representatives understand the power of words
and the consequences of their indiscriminate use. Consequently,
AMBER Alert messages must be carefully constructed to avoid using
any word or phrase that might possibly alienate someone who might
otherwise help. Particular care should be given to any mention
of the following:
- Race or nationality (unless pertinent to a physical description).
- Physical or mental disabilities (unless pertinent to a physical
- Sexual preference (except where applicable, such as being
listed on a state sex offender registry).
- Political affiliation.
- Religious preference.
- Other sensitive information that has no bearing on locating
an abducted child.