Wisconsin Amber Alert Launches Wednesday

By: Carrie Hutton
By: Carrie Hutton

Amber Alert has been compared to a severe weather alert. As soon as officers can verify that a child has been abducted, it will be entered into the Emergency Alert System for all Wisconsin broadcasters.

The Wisconsin Amber Alert system is set up to broadcast messages about the missing child and suspect every 30 minutes for the first two hours and then once an hour for the next three hours.

Wausau Police Chief Bill Brandimore says it has to be used for specific, dangerous cases.

"It's only going to come into play when we've got an endangerment, a child at risk. It's not going to be a custody dispute or used for a kid that got mad and went missing a few days. It's going to be when we're sure this child is endangered and we need to do something right now,"" said Brandimore.

It's hoped the alerts will draw the attention of everyone in the activated area. A similar system is credited with saving two California girls last summer.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, strangers abduct 4,600 children every year and that's about 12 kids nationwide every day.

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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.

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