Nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted while bicycling near her grandparents' Arlington home in 1996 and did not come back alive. Her body was found four days later in a creek bed. Her throat had been cut.
Out of Amber's death came a new way to alert the public quickly when a child has been abducted, often within the crucial first hour or so. The system, named for Amber, utilizes the same emergency broadcast network that radio and TV stations use to warn of dangerous weather and other potentially catastrophic conditions. 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 missing child and suspected abductor.
Amber Alert Criteria
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 and Exploited Children suggests 3 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 or TV stations designated as primary stations under the Emergency Alert System (EAS).