America Online will be joining the AMBER Alert program.
The alerts are put out by law enforcement officials to let the public know when a child may have been kidnapped, and now AOL customers will be able to get the alerts via e-mail, cell phones and beepers.
The program began in 1996, with radio and TV announcements of abducted kids. It has since been expanded to include highway billboards in some areas.
AOL users can go online to see which states are participating in the program -- and then volunteer to receive the alerts if they want.
Extended Web Coverage
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 missing 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.
- The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Since the original AMBER Plan was established, 66 modified versions have been adopted at local, regional, and statewide levels.
AMBER Plans Nationwide