EMA picks up where AMBER Alerts leave off

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Amber Hagerman, 9, was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 13, 1996. Four days later, her body was found in a creek behind an apartment complex, her throat slit. Authorities believed her abductor, who has never been caught, had kept her alive at least two days.

Her parents and other activists weren’t content to allow such tragedy to happen to another child, took a number of steps, one the establishment of AMBER Alerts, distributed by commercial radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, cable TV, the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather radio, electronic road signs, SMS messages, social media and search engines.

Actual results are open to debate, but perhaps as many as a thousand children have been recovered through the system, officially “America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

AMBER Alerts have a limitation, however. The missing person must be a child under the age of 18, believed to be abducted, believed to be in physical danger, and there must be information that could help locate the child, such as the suspect and/or the suspect’s vehicle.

But not all vulnerable people meet those criteria.

In response this week, Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson and Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc announced the creation of the Endangered Missing Advisory system to assist in the recovery of vulnerable, missing persons.

“Nebraskans are involved in their communities, and are always willing and able to help their neighbors,” said Governor Ricketts. “With new technology, we’re now able to look out for our most vulnerable neighbors in new ways. The Endangered Missing Advisory, or EMA, delivers information to law enforcement and the media when vulnerable Nebraskans go missing. It relies on the media to spread information about a vulnerable, missing person, and the public to be an additional set of eyes for law enforcement in a critical situation.”

An EMA is triggered with a request from local law enforcement for the Nebraska State Patrol to issue an alert, provided the missing person is considered to be in danger based on a variety of factors such as age, health, mental or physical disability, environment, weather conditions, or if the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person.

On the first day, a Rosalie man was found safe near his home after going missing the previous day and an EMA being issued.

To avoid “crying wolf” too often, EMA’s differ from AMBER Alerts in that they are issued on an NSP Troop Area Map rather than statewide, do not activate the EAS or WEA, and rely on local media to spread information.

“NSP has worked with local law enforcement and the media on the AMBER Alert system for years, Coll. Bolduc said. “That partnership was instrumental in identifying the need for a secondary alert for cases that don’t qualify for an AMBER Alert, but rise to the level that we think the public could be the key in locating a vulnerable, missing person.”

“Nebraska’s radio and TV stations stand ready to partner with local law enforcement to alert the public of missing people through Endangered Missing Alerts on the air, online and through social media,” said Jim Timm, executive director of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association. “These localized alerts will bring attention where needed without over-alerting the public in parts of the state where such an alert is not pertinent.”

You can help.

Members of the media and the public can sign up to receive EMA messages directly from the Nebraska State Patrol here.

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