AMBER Alert Adopted Locally

Imagine being a parent whose child has been abducted. What would you do? Who would you call for help? And how likely is it that your child will return home safely?

John Walsh, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says, "Statistics show that the first few hours are critical for a child's safe recovery."

Now those first few hours are more organized for the families of kidnapped kids in the Valley. America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response, better known as the AMBER Alert System, has been adopted by the Virginia State Police and this month, by Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, too.

Ken Puffenbarger, Master Police Officer at the Harrisonburg Police Department, says, "I have two children myself. It's a great tool. I think it should make all parents in the Valley feel safer knowing we have something like this around."

In Harrisonburg, where the police are parents, too, Sergeant Cindy Cull-Wright is spearheading local Amber Alert efforts.

"We can't remember the last time an incident occurred when we could've used the Amber Alert but that's not to say it can't happen today or tomorrow. We'd like to be prepared for that," she says.

This is how the AMBER Alert works.

- It's activated by police who have confirmed the child is abducted.
- The child must also be proven to be in serious danger.
- Children who have runaway or been taken by a parent don't qualify.

"We can't abuse the system. If it's abused, people aren't going to listen anymore. They're not going to tolerate hearing an Amber Alert every week," says Cull-Wright.

The police alert the public through the media with specific details like a suspect or car to look for. The alert is broadcast throughout Virginia. And an added local effort includes Harrisonburg police calling every household in the area with a reverse 911 recording.

To date, there have been 80 AMBER Alert activations and sixteen children have been returned home safely.

whsv.com 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.

AMBER Creation

  • 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, 77 modified versions have been adopted at local, regional, and statewide levels. Twenty-nine states have a state-wide plan.

AMBER Plans Nationwide

  • Alabama, Tuscaloosa County – AMBER Plan
  • Alabama, Dothan -- AMBER Alert Plan
  • Arizona, statewide -- Arizona Child Abduction Alert Plan
  • Arizona, Tucson (Pima County) – Missing Child Alert
  • Arkansas, statewide – Morgan Nick Alert
  • California, statewide – California Child Safety AMBER Network
  • California, Corcoran – To Rescue Abducted Children Immediately (TRACI)
  • California, Sacramento – Child Abduction Regional Emergency Alert (CARE)
  • California, San Francisco -- Bay Area AMBER Alert Plan
  • California, Orange County – Child Abduction Regional Emergency Alert (CARE)
  • Connecticut, statewide – Connecticut AMBER Plan
  • Colorado, statewide – Colorado AMBER Plan
  • Florida, statewide – Florida Emergency Missing Child Alert (FEMA)
  • Georgia, statewide – Levi's CALL
  • Idaho, Boise -- AMBER Alert
  • Idaho, Madison County -- AMBER Alert
  • Illinois, Belleville – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
  • Illinois, statewide – Illinois AMBER Plan
  • Indiana, Portage -- Missing Child Alert Plan
  • Indiana, southeastern – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
  • Indiana, statewide -- AMBER Alert
  • Indiana, Allen County -- AMBER Plan
  • Kansas, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Kansas, Topeka (Jefferson City) – AMBER Alert
  • Kansas, Wichita – AMBER Alert
  • Kentucky, northern – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
  • Louisiana, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Maryland, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Massachusetts, statewide -- AMBER Alert Plan
  • Michigan, statewide – Michigan AMBER Alert
  • Minnesota, statewide – Minnesota AMBER Alert
  • Missouri, Kansas City – AMBER Alert
  • Missouri, St. John – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
  • Missouri, St. Louis – St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert
  • Nebraska, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Nevada, Reno – Krystal Child Abduction Alert Plan
  • New Jersey, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • New Mexico, Albuquerque – AMBER Alert
  • New Mexico, statewide -- AMBER Alert
  • New York, statewide – AMBER Alert
  • North Carolina, Raleigh – NC Child Alert Notification System (NC CAN)
  • North Carolina, Stokes County – AMBER Alert
  • North Dakota, Fargo – JEANNA Alert
  • Ohio, Cincinnati – Child Abduction Alert Program (CAAP)
  • Ohio, Mid-Ohio Region – Mid-Ohio Stranger Abduction Alert
  • Ohio, Tuscarawas County – AMBER Alert Plan
  • Ohio, North Central Ohio -- AMBER Alert
  • Ohio, Northern Ohio -- Northern Ohio AMBER Alert Program
  • Ohio, Miami Valley -- AMBER Alert
  • Oklahoma, statewide – Oklahoma AMBER Plan
  • Oregon, Lane County -- AMBER Plan
  • Oregon, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Oregon, Washington County -- AMBER Plan
  • Pennsylvania, statewide – AMBER Alert
  • Rhode Island, statewide -- AMBER Alert
  • South Carolina, Charleston – Low County AMBER Plan
  • South Carolina, Columbia – Malcom Alert
  • South Carolina, statewide -- AMBER Alert
  • South Dakota, Yankton – AMBER Alert
  • Tennessee, Knoxville -- East Tennessee AMBER Alert Plan
  • Tennessee, Memphis – AMBER Alert
  • Texas, Amarillo – AMBER Alert
  • Texas, Beaumont – Save Our Kids
  • Texas, Dallas/Ft. Worth – AMBER Plan
  • Texas, Houston – Houston Regional AMBER Plan
  • Texas, Wichita Falls – AMBER Plan
  • Texas, statewide – AMBER Alert Network
  • Utah, statewide – Rachael Alert
  • Virginia, Richmond – Richmond Regional AMBER Alert System
  • Virginia, Roanoke – Roanoke Valley AMBER Alert
  • Virginia, Spotsylvania – Lisk-Silva Alerts
  • Virginia, Statewide - AMBER Alert
  • Washington, statewide -- AMBER Plan
  • Washington, King County -- AMBER Alert Plan
  • Washington D.C., Regional Metro – DC AMBER Plan (Metropolitan Regional Plan)
  • Wisconsin, Green Bay – Green Bay AMBER Plan
  • Wisconsin, La Cross -- 7 Rivers AMBER Plan
  • Wisconsin, Madison – AMBER Plan

    Source: http://www.missingkids.org / (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site)


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