We hear about them tragically too often but Amber Alerts have so far saved more than 800 children from grave danger in the 20 years since they started. The early warning system raises an alarm when law enforcement fears a child has been abducted and is considered to be at risk of bodily harm of even death. January 12th is the annual Amber Alert Awareness Day, and is a good time to review what to do if you get an alert and how to protect children from abduction.
If you receive or hear an Amber Alert, usually on your phone or via radio or TV, here's what to do:
- Make a note of the phone number issued with the alert.
- Look out for the child, suspect and/or the vehicle described in the alert.
- If you spot any of these, call the provided number.
- Provide as much information as you can on where you are and what you saw,
- Do not take any other action beyond contacting law enforcement unless requested to do so.
You can also help protect your kids from the risk of kidnap using these tips from the public safety service Smart911:
- Tell them it's okay to say no to adults and run away from them if they feel scared.
- Set up a password that only you and each child knows and tell them they should never go off with someone who doesn’t normally collect them and doesn’t know the word.
- Don’t share information online -- especially name, address or school -- about children in your family or who you otherwise know.
- Don't put children's names where they're visible on clothes, backpacks or toys.
I sure hope it never happens to you but if your child or one in your care goes missing, it's crucial to call 911 immediately. The first hour after a disappearance is the most critical.
And while you’re focusing on Awareness Day, why not set up a free, private safety profile for your family at www.smart911.com? You can include photos and physical descriptions of your kids on this highly secure site, which can be shared with first responders in the event of an emergency -- another crucial time-saver.
Kelly Dolphin is a personal insurance specialist with Joyce, Jackman & Bell Insurors and Joyce Haggerty Bell Insurance Group.