Rapid Emergency Child Alert Systems

In the United States, the AMBER Alert Program – named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered near her grandparents’ home in Texas in 1996 – is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies in which an urgent bulletin is activated in the most serious child-abduction cases.

AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.” The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System to air a description of the abducted child and suspected abductor. The alert is distributed through various technology (e.g., text message, e-mail, fax, radio and television broadcast, social media, etc.) to reach the largest number of people in the fastest time possible.

In addition to the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, emergency child abduction alert systems are in place in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Each country has its own criteria and guidelines for how and when to launch an alert.

Within the European Union, an EU-wide alert system is being considered with the aim of all EU Member States sharing information if a child has gone missing and there is the possibility that he or she has left his or her home country. This system will be led by law enforcement with the help of NGOs. The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, assists countries around the world with developing alert programs and sharing best practices.

For more information on how to develop a rapid emergency child alert system please read ICMEC’s Framework.