Colonel Eric T. Olson, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, announces the Patrol has launched an upgraded Missouri AMBER Alert system that streamlines the process to get alerts to the public faster. The new system includes wireless emergency alerts, automated social media alerts, and a public website, www.moalerts.mo.gov, which provides the latest information on AMBER Alerts active in Missouri at any time.
Under state law, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has responsibility for initiating AMBER Alerts when a missing child meets the criteria set forth in Section 210.1012 RSMo. As of September 1, there have been 967 successful recoveries, with 57 of them being due to the wireless emergency alerts.
The new Patrol alert system directly utilizes FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to deliver AMBER Alert messages to cellular carriers, eliminating a step in the previous system, which first delivered alert messages to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for distribution.
Each AMBER Alert will include photos and descriptions of the missing child and suspect, if available. The new system’s automatic alert updates are designed to reduce the possibility that outdated information will continue to be shared on social media. This new system also will automatically update the Patrol’s Facebook and GHQ Twitter accounts.
The MO Alerts website allows members of the media and public to subscribe to emailed AMBER Alerts. Subscribers receive immediate notification any time details contained within an active AMBER Alert are updated. Anyone interested may subscribe to MO Alerts by going to www.moalerts.mo.gov, selecting “Subscribe to MO Alerts” on the left side of the webpage, entering their email address, and clicking “Subscribe.” Subscribers will receive a verification email and must click on the link provided to complete the process.
Many factors affect the speed at which AMBER Alerts reach the public, including cellular phone carriers and broadcaster capabilities and protocol. It is the hope of the Missouri State Highway Patrol that the new system can help reduce the critical minutes between when an AMBER Alert is initiated and when the media and public are notified. Streamlining this process and continuously providing up-to-the-minute information increases the likelihood of successfully recovering the missing child.
The system has been fully tested internally and on FEMA’s IPAWS test servers. The Patrol continually looks for ways to improve the overall alert notification process.
AMBER Alerts are activated in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of a missing child. These alerts are broadcast through radio, TV, road signs, cellphones, and other data-enabled devices. The AMBER Alert system is being used in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 27 other countries.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs has tasked the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children with managing the AMBER Alert Secondary Distribution Program. When law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert, NCMEC is notified and redistributes the alert to the appropriate secondary distributors.