File:Laura Bush & Rae Leigh Bradbury, 2007Apr04.jpg

An AMBER Alert is a notification to the general public, by various media outlets in Canada and in the United States, issued when police confirm that a child has been abducted. AMBER is a backronym for "America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response", and was named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996. Exceptions are in Georgia, where it is called Levi's Call[1], Hawaii, where it is called a Maile Amber Alert [2], and Arkansas, where it is called a Morgan Nick Amber Alert[3]. Those plans were named after children who went missing in those states.

AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System (where they are termed "Child Abduction Emergency"), as well as via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, and wireless device SMS text messages. Those interested in subscribing to receive AMBER Alerts in their area via SMS messages can visit Wireless Amber Alerts [4]. In some states, lottery terminals are also used. The decision to declare an AMBER Alert is made by the police organization investigating the abduction. Public information in an AMBER Alert usually consists of the name and description of the abductee, a description of the suspected abductor, and a description and license plate number of the abductor's vehicle, if available.

History Edit

In January, 1996, after Amber Hagerman was abducted, raped, and murdered, citizens of her community learned that local law enforcement had information that might have helped locate her shortly after she was abducted, but had no means to distribute this information.

The original plan was focused entirely on radio and used for stranger abductions, and modeled after Texas tornado and hazardous weather alerts where, during an alert, the police were instructed to fax the information to two primary radio stations. Those two primary contacts would in turn verify the receipt and accuracy of the fax and then alert other participating radio stations through subsequent fax transmissions. Although effective, it was a manual process, repetitive and time consuming.

The first automated implementation of the Amber Alert was created by the Child Alert Foundation in 1998. This non-profit charity created a fully automated Alert Notification System (ANS) to notify surrounding communities when a child was reported missing or abducted. Alerts were sent to radio stations as originally requested but included television stations, surrounding law enforcement agencies, newspapers and local support organizations. These alerts were sent all at once via pagers, faxes, emails, and cell phones with the information immediately posted on the Internet for the general public to view.

Following the automation of the Amber Alert with ANS technology, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2002 expanded its role to promote the Amber Alert and has worked aggressively to see alerts distributed using the nation's existing emergency radio and TV response network. [5] Various U.S. states and communities followed suit, developing similar systems named after Amber Hagerman.

Since the NCMEC has been involved in the Amber Alert System, most of the alerts have been for Parental Abductions rather than the original intended use for Stranger Abductions, resulting in a lot more Amber Alerts being issued.

Activation criteriaEdit

To avoid both false alarms and having alerts ignored as a "wolf cry", the criteria for issuing an alert are rather strict.

Each state's or province's AMBER alert plan sets its own criteria for activation, meaning that there are differences between alerting agencies as to which incidents are considered to justify the use of the system. However, the U.S. Department of Justice issues the following "guidance", which most states are said to "adhere closely to"[6]:

  1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place
  2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death
  3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor's vehicle to issue an alert
  4. The child must be 17 years old or younger

Many law enforcement agencies have not used #2 as a criterion, resulting in many parental abductions triggering an Amber Alert where the child is not known or assumed to be at risk of serious injury or death.

It is recommended that immediate entry of AMBER Alert data be entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center. Text information describing the circumstances surrounding the abduction of the child should be entered, and the case flagged as child abduction.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) requirements in Canada are nearly identical to the above list, with the obvious exception that the RCMP instead of the FBI is normally notified.[7] One may notify the other if there is reason to suspect that the border may be crossed.

False alarmsEdit

Advocates for missing children are concerned that the public is becoming desensitized to AMBER Alerts because of a large number of false alarms — where police issue an AMBER Alert without strictly adhering to the U.S. Department of Justice's activation guidelines.

A Scripps Howard study of the 233 AMBER Alerts issued in the United States in 2004 found that most issued alerts did not meet the Department of Justice's criteria. Fully 50% (117 alerts) were categorized by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as being "family abductions," very often a parent involved in a custody dispute. There were 48 alerts for children who had not been abducted at all, but were lost, ran away, involved in family misunderstandings (for instance, two instances where the child was with grandparents), or as the result of hoaxes. Another 23 alerts were issued in cases where police didn't know the name of the allegedly abducted child, often as the result of misunderstandings by witnesses who reported an abduction.

Only 70 of the 233 AMBER Alerts issued in 2004 (30%) were actually children taken by strangers or who were unlawfully traveling with adults other than their legal guardians. [8]

Nurin AlertEdit

Main article: Nurin Jazlin

The Nurin alert was established in Malaysia in September 2007 based wholly on the AMBER alert after an 8 year old girl named Nurin went missing in suburban Kuala Lumpur. Recently in January 2008, it was activated for the first time for a 5 year old girl called Sharlinie who went missing from her home in Petaling Jaya

U.S. postage stampEdit

File:2006 USPS-AMBER Alert stamp.jpg

The United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp commemorating AMBER Alerts in May 2006. The 39-cent stamp features a chalk pastel drawing by artist Vivienne Flesher of a reunited mother and child, with the text "AMBER ALERT saves missing children" across the pane. The stamp was released as part of the observance of National Missing Children's Day.[9]

Other "amber alerts"Edit

The color amber is a frequent component of color coded systems, and by extension, of alert state systems, especially outside of the U.S. where yellow or orange would more typically be used. The BIKINI state of the UK Ministry of Defence has an "amber alert" status, and other "amber alerts" are known to be in use by hospitals for patient emergencies, weather bureaus for storm warnings, etc.

See alsoEdit


  1. Levi's Call: Georgia's Amber Alert. Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved on 2006-09-04.
  2. MAILE AMBER Alert. Hawaii Department of Attorney General.
  3. Morgan Nick Amber Alert. Arkansas State Police (2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-04.
  4. Wireless AMBER Alerts.
  5. US trademark # 3078416 Serial # 78160095.
  6. Guidance on Criteria for Issuing AMBER Alerts (PDF). U.S. Department of Justice (April 2004). Retrieved on 2006-09-05.
  7. AMBER Alert. Government of Canada Royal Canadian Mounted Police (2006-05-14). Retrieved on 2006-09-04.
  8. False alarms endangering future of Amber Alert system. Scripps Howard News Service (2005-05-25). Retrieved on 2006-06-23.
  9. U.S. Postal Service issues new stamp promoting social awareness. United States Postal Service (May 25, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-04.

External linksEdit

ko:앰버 경고 fi:AMBER-hälytys yi:עמבער אלערט zh:安珀警戒

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