National Missing Children’s Day: How FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Plays a Role in Recovery of Children

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 Animated children playing with text "National Missing Children's Day"

First proclaimed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, National Missing Children’s Day falls on May 25 each year. The day honors the efforts of those protecting children and highlights the issue of missing and abducted children. 

FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) plays a crucial role helping locate missing children through distributing America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts

Originally, AMBER Alerts were only sent to cell phones that subscribed using their zip code to receive alerts for specific geographic locations. Since Jan. 1, 2013, IPAWS enables AMBER Alerts to be sent to cell phones through Wireless Emergency Alerts, significantly increasing the reach and speed of getting this important message out. IPAWS may also be used to send AMBER Alerts over TV and radio.

When a child is reported missing and is imminent danger, state law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children may issue an alert through IPAWS to quickly reach a wide audience, sometimes millions of people, to aid in the recovery of an abducted child.  Mobilizing the local community maximizes the chances of a safe recovery of the child.

For example, when a 10-month-old girl was abducted in Memphis, police issued an AMBER Alert with the abductor’s car description. Memphis police mobilized their units and searched for the infant throughout the night but couldn’t find her. The next morning, a retired military veteran spotted a vehicle that he felt matched the description from the alert. He looked up the plate info from the alert and found that it was the same vehicle and immediately contacted 911. Police arrived soon after and were able to connect the parents with their child.

As a result of the quick broadcasting of AMBER Alerts through IPAWS, 180 children have been safely recovered. Without the help of the public, law enforcement and alerting authorities would not be able to recover the children who go missing. 

The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children also operates the National Emergency Child Locator Center at the request of FEMA during the event of a presidentially declared disaster. So, as we approach hurricane season, do not turn off your alerts. One could save your life or the life of someone you love.

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