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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 1

AMBER Alert Awareness Day

Most of us have heard the loud tone of an AMBER Alert, originating from our mobile devices. AMBER Alerts are designed to get the public’s attention. Radio and television broadcasts, highway signs, Twitter feeds and wireless emergency alerts are some of the numerous resources utilized to rapidly notify the public of child abduction incidents. As our reliance on technology and social media increases, so does the potential to immediately provide communities with life-saving information. During a child abduction incident, every second counts. A public sighting or reported tip could make a difference in the life of a child. Even with all the modern technology available, most people don’t know the harrowing story behind what is now a familiar call for help.

The term “AMBER Alert” is widely recognized, however it is associated with a tragic history. Every January 13 the nation remembers the legacy of a very special 9-year-old girl, by the name of Amber Hagerman. Amber was riding her bicycle in an abandoned parking lot when she was kidnapped on January 13, 1996 in Arlington, Texas. Days later, she was found brutally murdered. Amber’s story, however, wasn’t over. Concerned citizens, broadcasters and law enforcement quickly reacted, creating a public notification system in their local community for abducted children. The name “Amber Alert” was chosen in remembrance of Amber Hagerman. From what started in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, has become the nation’s role model. Today, every U.S. state has an AMBER Alert program. In Texas, there are 18 independent regional alert programs working alongside the state’s network. The Blue, Silver and Endangered Missing Persons alert programs also mirror the original Amber Plan concept.

In 2002 Executive Order RP-16 created the state’s Amber Alert network, coordinated by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Texas legislation in 2003 codified the existing state network as the “Statewide America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert System for Abducted Children.” The State Operations Center (SOC), within the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) serves as the intake and coordinator of alert resources statewide. Investigative support is provided by the DPS Joint Crime Information Center (JCIC). During an activation of the state’s AMBER Alert network, the following technology resources are made available:

  • Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) Highway Signs
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio
  • Texas Lottery Commission Vendor Machines & Electronic Scrolling Signs
  • Media
    • Local radio and television news service outlets
  • DPS Flyer Distribution System
    • Texas law enforcement agencies can create and distribute their own AMBER Alert flyers, apart from those issued by the state’s network. Additionally, the public can subscribe to receive AMBER Alert flyers at no cost.
  • Law Enforcement
    • Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are notified via the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS).
  • Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) Electronic Signs
    • IBAT members are encouraged to display alert information within their lobby and drive-through facilities, to include electronic messaging systems.
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) Secondary Distribution System
    • NCMEC's Secondary Distribution Network activates during AMBER Alerts, mobilizing numerous companies (Examples: Yahoo, Google "Alphabet", Facebook, Walgreens and OnStar). Please visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for further information regarding how to receive alerts from NCMEC's Secondary Distribution partners.
  • Twitter - @Tx_Alerts
    • Follow @TX_Alerts to receive AMBER Alert information statewide, issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
  • Participating Companies and Organizations
    • TDEM’s SOC maintains an extensive list of participating companies and public content providers, with the ability to rapidly disseminate information to Texas citizens.
  • Mobile Phones – Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

TDEM also houses a training and outreach component, designed to strengthen AMBER Alert operations and awareness at the local, regional, state and federal levels. Each year, TDEM hosts a workshop designed for regional AMBER Alert coordinators to network and share information. Law enforcement officials can also receive specialized alert program training, offering Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) credit.

Texas Emergency Management Conference will host an AMBER Alert workshop on May 15, 2017 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. This course outlines how law enforcement activates alert resources for specific missing person cases at available local, regional and state networks. Attendees will receive a certificate of course completion, along with 3-hours of TCOLE credit.

What can you do? Remain vigilant of the dangers present and stay informed about what to do when a child abduction occurs. Educate children about personal safety, safe places, strangers and online predators. If an AMBER Alert has been activated, be on the lookout for the child, suspect and vehicle. Call 911 immediately if you witness a child being abducted or if you locate an abducted child, suspect or possible vehicle. Every passing moment is essential for the safe return of a child.

We invite you to visit the below website and learn more about the AMBER Alert program, including how to receive alerts. Become involved and save a child’s life!

AMBER Alert Programs

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

AMBER Alert Awareness Day proclamation signed by Governor Abbott (PDF)

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