I do not have any information on the subject, but I wonder in what way
Amber Alerts are disseminated so quickly.
The reported kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl in Independence got me
thinking about this. It was quickly on all the TV stations in
Oklahoma (not just Tulsa) and I assume on the overhead road message
signs, too. Probably the same thing is true in Kansas.
Surely there must be some form of authentication and then rapid
transmission to various police agencies, the media, and the state
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: All these things are true. In the case
of Kelsey Stelting, the sixteen year old girl here in Independence
Tuesday morning, when I woke up at 7:30 AM it was already running as a
'ticker ribbon message' on KOAM (Cable channel 2) out of Tulsa. The
'local use' cable channels here, channel 10 (municipal) and channel 14
(Independence High School) were completely consumed with it. Apparently
she was kidnapped between 6:15 and 6:30 AM in front of her parent's
house at 5th and Pine Street. We are told she was grabbed at gun point
during her morning jogging session. All the details are not totally
clear to me, except that she was instructed by the kidnapper to "run
in the direction of a lumber yard five blocks away at Penn and Pecan
Streets and get into a 'white van' driven by a confederate of the
kidnapper." Apparently she was able to sneak in a call on her own
cell phone to (a) police and (b) her mother at home and in a short
conversation (before being caught using the cell phone) tell them what
was happening to her. According to later news reports, the cell phone
was rudely taken away from her when she was caught using it.
According to this evening's _Independence Reporter_ -- which as you
might expect had S-C-R-E-A-M-I-N-G headlines on the topic, -- her
father lives in Houston, Texas heard the news at 7 AM in _Houston_ and
a family friend heard the news in _Florida_ about the same time; flew
(via airplane) to Houston, retrieved the father and brought him on to
Independence, where they met with Kelsey's mother at about noon. So
between 6:35 AM and 7:00 AM, police were notified here in Independence,
her father and his friend were notified in Texas and Florida, our
Chief of Police Lee Bynum (or his designate, the only persons who are
authorized to send out an Amber Alert) managed to get word out not
only to our own cable system (really, it is just a matter of 'flipping
a switch' in police HQ in our instance) but also got the word to Cox
Cable which handles C'Ville (and some Oklahoma places?). I am not really
sure how they got it out that fast, including all the highway signs, etc.
A fact sheet I have here about AMBER ALERT says:
> The AMBER Alert Plan, named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, is a
> voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters,
> and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most
> serious child-abduction cases. Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert
> System (EAS) to air a description of the abducted child and suspected
> abductor. This is the same concept used during severe weather
> emergencies. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the
> entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the
The FAQ from the same fact sheet says:
> Frequently Asked Questions
> Why was the AMBER Plan created?
> The AMBER Plan was created in 1997 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 they could help
> prevent such incidents in the future.
> The next year local law enforcement and broadcasters created the
> AMBER Plan in Amber Hagerman's honor. The AMBER Plan, also known as
> America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Plan, is a program
> in which broadcasters and transportation authorities immediately
> distribute information about recent child abductions to the public,
> enabling the entire community to assist in the search for and safe
> recovery of the child.
> What began as a local effort in Dallas, Texas, has grown into a
> seamless system of AMBER Alert programs across the country, each
> year saving the lives of abducted children.
> How do AMBER Alerts work?
> Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must
> first determine if the case meets the recommended criteria from the U.S.
> Department of Justice for activating an alert. Guidance on Criteria for
> Issuing AMBER Alerts (PDF)
> a.. There is reasonable belief by law enforcement an abduction has
> b.. The abduction is of a child age 17 years or younger
> c.. The law-enforcement agency believes the child is in imminent
> danger of serious bodily injury or death
> d.. There is enough descriptive information about the victim and abduction
> for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the
> e.. The child's name and other critical data elements, including the
> Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime
> Information Center (NCIC) computer
> If these criteria are met, alert information must be put together
> for public distribution. This information may include descriptions
> and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, and a
> suspected vehicle along with 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 EAS. The primary stations send the same
> information to area radio and television stations and cable systems
> via the EAS, and participating stations immediately broadcast the
> information 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
> Some states are also incorporating electronic highway billboards in their
> AMBER Plans. The billboards, typically used to disseminate traffic
> information to drivers, now alert the public of abducted children by
> displaying pertinent information about the child, abductor, or suspected
> vehicle that drivers might look for on highways.
> What should I do when an AMBER Alert is issued? The AMBER Alert
> message encourages the public to look for the missing child or
> suspect. You become the eyes and ears of local law enforcement.
> In the event you spot a child, adult, or vehicle fitting the AMBER Alert
> description, immediately call the telephone number given in the AMBER Alert
> and provide authorities with as much information as you know.
I do know that by about 9 AM here, the high school and middle school
had discussed it with their students, and notices were appearing in
store windows. Ditto with the case about two years ago here where the
small child went with an unauthorized adult in a car after school. Five
minutes after it happened, when school authorities noticed the child
missing, police were searching. I think they take it rather seriously
around here at least. PAT]