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What is the AMBER Plan?

The AMBER Plan is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent 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 abducted child and suspected abductor.

This is the same concept used during severe weather emergencies. The goal of the AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe return of the child.

Why Was the AMBER Plan Created?

The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a bright little girl who was kidnapped and brutally murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.

The tragedy shocked and outraged the entire community. Residents contacted radio stations in the Dallas area and suggested they broadcast special “alerts” over the airwaves so that they could help prevent such incidents in the future. Letter to Dallas area radio station (Adobe PDF)

In response to the community’s concern for the safety of local children, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers teamed up with local law-enforcement agencies in northern Texas and developed this innovative early warning system to help find abducted children. Statistics show that, when abducted, a child’s greatest enemy is time.

How Does the AMBER Plan Work?

Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets the AMBER Plan’s criteria for triggering an alert.

Each program establishes its own AMBER Plan criteria; however, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children suggests three criteria that should be met before an Alert is activated.
  • law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted
  • law enforcement believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death
  • there is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help
If these criteria are met, alert information must be put together for public distribution. This information can include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, a suspected vehicle, and any other information available and valuable to identifying the child and suspect.

The information is then faxed to radio stations designated as primary stations under the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

The primary stations send the same information to area radio and television stations and cable systems via the EAS, and it is immediately broadcast by participating stations to millions of listeners.

Radio stations interrupt programming to announce the Alert, and television stations and cable systems run a “crawl” on the screen along with a picture of the child.

Some states are also incorporating electronic highway billboards in their Plans. The billboards, typically used to disseminate traffic information to drivers, now alert the public of abducted children, displaying pertinent information about the child, abductor or suspected vehicle that drivers might look for on highways.
 
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