The AMBER alert system — an early warning system that helps police locate abducted children — was developed in 1996 as a collaboration between Dallas-area broadcasters and local police.
AMBER, which stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl from Arlington, Texas, who was kidnapped in January 1996 while riding her bicycle in a grocery store parking lot. She was found murdered four days later.
The AMBER system is a straightforward protocol for law enforcement to follow when a child is abducted. Once it is determined that an abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria — the child is under 17 years of age, and there is reason to believe that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death — law enforcement notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.
AMBER alerts then interrupt regular programming on television and radio and are broadcast on highway signs. AMBER alert notifications are also issued online, via text messages and on printed lottery tickets.
To date, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that the AMBER alert system has helped save the lives of nearly 500 children nationwide.
In 2002, the Justice Department appointed its first National AMBER Alert Coordinator, and by 2005, all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, had implemented AMBER alert plans. By 2009, AMBER had also been adopted by Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Canadian provinces and several Mexican states bordering the United States.