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Alabama Amber Alerts - Child Abduction Alerts

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History of the AMBER Plan
How the AMBER Plan Works
Activating the Alabama AMBER Alert System
AMBER State Plan
State Bureau of Investigation (SBI)
AMBER Alert Cancellation
AMBER Plan Brochure (PDF/373kb)


The Alabama AMBER Plan is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response. Every law enforcement agency in the state is invited and encouraged to participate in the program. However, in order to participate in the program, the law enforcement agency will be required to do, at a minimum, the following: a) adopt the criteria established by the AMBER state –wide taskforce; b) adopt formal departmental policies and operating procedures regarding the program; c) identify and designate certain individuals within their respective agencies designate an alert situation; d) participate in training for familiarization and consistent state-wide operation of the program; and e) agree not to activate the system unless all four elements of the criteria are completely satisfied.

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.

Statistics show that in the most serious child abduction cases 74% of the children murdered by non-family members are killed within the first three hours of their abduction. The AMBER Plan focuses on those critical moments immediately after an abduction occurs to immediately disseminate as much useful information as possible to public. This instantly galvanizes the community to assist in the search for the child and the abductor before it is too late.

History of the AMBER Plan

The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a bright little girl 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.

In response to the community's concern for the safety of local children, 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. Statistics show that, when abducted, a child's greatest enemy is time.

How the AMBER Plan Works

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.
  • Law enforcement confirms a child has been abducted, and
  • Law enforcement believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction to indicate that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, and 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 is 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 the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) in Montgomery, Alabama. SBI sends the information via the EAS system to all television and radio broadcasters throughout the state. The information is immediately broadcast by participating stations to thousands 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.

Activating the Alabama AMBER Alert System

Law Enforcement:
After local Law Enforcement confirms that a child has been abducted, the designated person within the investigating agency will call the State Bureau of Investigation in Montgomery to advise them a fax is forthcoming. SBI will confirm that the criteria has been met for an AMBER Activation and issue an AMBER Alert via the state Emergency Alert System (EAS) using the Child Abduction Emergency (CAE) Code. The following questionnaire may be used to verify that the criteria for the AMBER Alert have been met.
  1. What is the child’s age?
    1. 18 or older, do not activate AMBER Alert
    2. Under 18, go to question 2.
    3. What is the evidence that the child was abducted?
      1. If abducted, go to question 3.
      2. If not abducted, do not activate AMBER Alert
      3. What is the relationship of the child to the abductor?
        1. Stranger – Go to question 4.a.
        2. Family member – go to question 4.b. below:
      4. What is the evidence that the child is in danger of serious injury or death?
        1. Stranger:
          1. In most stranger abduction cases, the threat of serious injury or death to the victim can be assumed, unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. Activate the AMBER Alert.
        2. Family member abduction:
          Generally, the AMBER Plan is not to be used for custody type situations. However, if the taking of the child rises the level/definition of an abduction under Alabama law, and there is compelling evidence that the child is in imminent danger of serious physical injury or death by being in the company of this person—then the AMBER Plan may be considered. Some factors for consideration are:
          1. Has the child ever been abused physically or sexually by this person
          2. Has the abductor threatened the child with bodily harm or death?
          3. Is the abductor an abuser of alcohol or drugs?
          4. Was the person under the influence of alcohol or other substance when the child was abducted.
      If there is compelling evidence that the child is in immediate danger of serious physical injury or death, activate AMBER Alert.

      AMBER State Plan

      Once the determination has been made to activate the State AMBER Alert system, the originating agency shall:
      • Broadcast a statewide teletype through ACJIC indicating that a child has been abducted and that an AMBER Alert is forthcoming. Include the agency’s telephone number
      • Transmit an administrative message, by ACJIC, to the State Bureau of Investigation in Montgomery to advise them an AMBER Alert fax is forthcoming. (Prepare to answer basic questions concerning the facts of the case to confirm that that criteria has been met.)
      • Prepare and fax the information and descriptions regarding the abducted child, the suspect and suspect vehicle to SBI.
      • Have personnel assigned to receive incoming telephone calls regarding the alert for 24 hours following an AMBER Alert or until the alert cancelled. Supplement the AMBER Alert information by distributing photos of the child to the broadcasters and public via:
        • Email distribution lists to broadcasters
        • Posting the child’s photo on an advertised website.
        • Having the Alabama Center for Missing and Exploited Children post the child’s photo on their website.
      The reporting law enforcement supervisor is cautioned to ensure that his/her agency is properly staffed to handle a large volume of incoming telephone calls that may result from an AMBER Alert. Additional staffing may also be needed to follow up on the leads received. The telephone number given to the public in the AMBER Alert must be a telephone number (other than 911) capable of handling multiple incoming lines.

      State Bureau of Investigation (SBI)

      Once Law Enforcement has determined that an AMBER Alert should be activated, SBI will activate the state Emergency Alert System using the new Child Abduction Emergency (CAE) code, which is specifically designed for AMBER Alerts. The number of times the alert is broadcast is to be determined by an agreement with the broadcasters. It is suggested that the alert be broadcast at least every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours following an abduction.


      Each participating broadcaster must insure that their stations EAS unit is programmed to receive and relay a Child Abduction Emergency (CAE) coded message. Information regarding EAS Equipment upgrades can be found at the Alabama Broadcasters Association at 205-982-5001. Their web site can be found at

      AMBER Alert Cancellation

      Once the child is located or the case is closed, the initiating law enforcement agency will notify SBI which will distribute a AMBER Cancellation using the same EAS broadcast system. The AMBER Cancellation should only be broadcast once; any further news coverage of the story is at the discretion of each media outlet. Law Enforcement shall also notify other agencies of the cancellation by sending a statewide teletype advising that the alert has been cancelled.