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AMBER Center · Frequently Asked Questions

Index of Questions:


What is the AMBER Alert Plan?

The Statewide AMBER Alert Plan is a child abduction emergency alert utilizing Web-based technology to notify citizens of a child abduction. The alert provides details concerning the child and the perpetrator (if known), including descriptive information. Utilizing the combined power of technology, the media, law enforcement, and the public, the ultimate goal of an AMBER Alert is to ensure the safe return of the child.

The AMBER Alert Web Portal will use a geographic information system to provide map-based search capabilities and convey location-based information to the public. Law enforcement, media, and citizens will have the option to choose to be notified of alerts and status updates via e-mail, fax or phone, or other Web service notification methods such as paging or personal digital assistants. Information on the portal can be displayed in visual, text or audio format, for both local and extended areas. In addition, the Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol work collaboratively to activate electronic billboards throughout the state to alert citizens that a child has been abducted.


Who created the Statewide AMBER Alert Plan?

Stakeholders involved in the development of the Washington State AMBER Alert Plan include the Washington State Patrol, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Washington State Association of Broadcasters, Emergency Management Division, Department of Transportation, Department of Information Services, and E2C (Engaging & Empowering Citizenship/Earth 911). This strategic partnership developed a pilot project in July 2003 to enhance the AMBER Alert Plan, allowing local law enforcement agencies in cities and states with current AMBER Alert activation capabilities to post up-to-date information about an abducted child to a single AMBER Alert Web portal.


Who activates an AMBER Alert?

Many law enforcement agencies throughout Washington State have formulated AMBER Alert Plans. Once notified there has been an abduction, they review the information relating to the abduction to determine if certain criteria are met. Many factors determine whether or not an actual AMBER Alert will occur, which include:

  • The age of the child. The child must be under 18 and known to have been abducted (e.g., not a runaway or thrownaway from home).
  • The abducted child is believed to be in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • The AMBER Alert activation should occur within 4 hours of the event qualifying unless circumstances warrant otherwise.
  • There must be enough descriptive information available to believe an AMBER Alert will assist in the recovery.
  • The incident must be reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency.

In the event a law enforcement agency does not have an approved plan, they must utilize the resources of another law enforcement agency with an approved plan to activate an AMBER Alert, or the Washington State Patrol will assist them in activating an alert.

When an incident does not qualify under the criteria for an AMBER Alert, the Washington State Patrol will offer press releases, the WSP’s Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit, and other notification methods available at that time.


Then what happens?

The Washington AMBER Alert Statewide Plan takes effect when a law enforcement agency with an approved AMBER Alert Plan has determined that the incident qualifies under the criteria of the Statewide Plan. These law enforcement agencies initiate activation of the Emergency Alert System and the AMBER Alert Web Portal. In the event a law enforcement agency does not have an approved plan, they must utilize the resources of another law enforcement agency with an approved plan to activate an AMBER Alert, or the Washington State Patrol will assist them in activating an alert.


What is the AMBER Alert Web Portal?

The AMBER Alert Web Portal is a Web site offering a single location from which the media, law enforcement, and the public can obtain current AMBER Alert information on abducted children.

Various processes to disseminate the information effectively are activated. Law enforcement, the media, and citizens can utilize the portal to be notified of alerts and status updates via e-mail, phone, fax, or other Web service notification methods (such as paging or personal digital assistants).

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How does the Web Portal work?

Once a law enforcement agency has introduced the alert information to the AMBER Alert Web Portal, it is available for viewing. The information available on the Web Portal may include details concerning where the abduction took place, specific physical description of the child and abductor (if known), place last seen, description of the suspect vehicle, photographs, etc.


What if my child is missing?

Always call your local law enforcement to report a missing child immediately. Also, please review our How To Initiate an AMBER Alert page for more information.


Can I do anything as a citizen to assist?

Be observant! You become the additional eyes and ears for law enforcement. Information you provide may assist law enforcement in rescuing of a child and apprehending the perpetrator. If you see or hear anything pertaining to the alert:

  • Take no action yourself
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Provide as much information to law enforcement as you can
  • Expedience is paramount and time is of the essence in recovering the child and preventing further harm

The assistance of our citizens cannot be understated.


What about child abductions in other states?

As a result of a partnership between member states, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the U.S. Department of Justice, procedures have been established to extend Washington State AMBER Alerts into other states, and to extend other states’ AMBER Alerts into Washington State. These partnerships work together to accept common AMBER Alert qualifying criteria.

AMBER Alert Review Committee members agree to promote the AMBER Alert Web Portal for the state of Washington and to encourage others to join the national AMBER Alert Web Portal Consortium (AAWPC) for its use in neighboring states and across the nation. Review the Memorandum of Understanding to learn more about Washington State’s efforts to partner with other states and across the nation to recover abducted children.


How effective is this process?

To ensure the effectiveness of AMBER Alerts, an AMBER Alert Review Committee reviews all alert activations and denials; evaluates effectiveness and timeliness of key decisions, actions, and results; and recommends policy and procedure improvements. Washington stakeholders agree to work cooperatively to operate and manage the Statewide Plan on an ongoing basis.


Who do I contact if I have questions about an AMBER Alert?

Contact AMBERAlerts@wsp.wa.gov or:

Carri Gordon, Manager
AMBER Alert Program Manager
Washington State Patrol
210 - 11th Avenue SW
Olympia WA 98504-2347
(360) 704-2404 Office

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Amber Hagerman

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