Amber Alert

History of the Amber Alert Plan

Inciting Event

In January 1996, nine year old Amber Hagerman was riding her bicycle when a neighbor heard the girl scream. The neighbor saw a man pull Amber off her bike, throw her into the front seat of his pickup truck, and drive away at a high speed. 

The neighbor called police and provided a description of the suspect and his vehicle, but couldn't recall much else. Arlington, Texas police and the FBI interviewed other neighbors and searched for the suspect and vehicle. Local radio and TV stations covered the story in their regular newscasts. Four days later, Amber's body was found in a drainage ditch four miles away. Her throat has been cut. Her kidnapping and murder remain unsolved.

Formation of a Plan

A concerned citizen contacted a Dallas, Texas radio station suggesting the idea that Dallas radio stations should repeat news bulletins about abducted children just like they do severe weather warnings. The idea was presented to the general managers of the radio stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They agreed that such a program would provide an important public service and might help save the life of a child.

The Dallas Amber Plan was started in July 1997 to help safely recover missing children that police believe have been abducted. Since then, the program has successfully recovered eight children and expanded to other cities and states nationwide.


Although the Amber Plan is named after Amber Hagerman, this national program is dedicated to all children nationwide who've been abducted. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, up to 4600 children are abducted by strangers every year (about 12 children nationwide every day).

The Indiana Amber Alert Plan

The Amber Alert Plan was launched in Indiana on October 1, 2002. The Amber Alert Plan is a statewide notification program to help locate abducted and endangered children within the first 24-hours which are the most critical hours in an abduction.

The power of free, over-the-air electronic media is the best way to quickly reach Indiana citizens who may have information leading to the return of a missing or abducted child. Through the Indiana Amber Alert Plan, listeners and viewers will become the eyes and ears for police, and hopefully aid in the return of the child.


Each city or state's Amber Plan program is administered separately in accordance with Emergency Alert System (EAS) procedures approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Each program establishes its own Amber Alert criteria, activation procedures, and distribution methods. For example, the Indiana Amber Alert Plan has four Alert criteria:

  • The child must be believed to be abducted, and in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
  • The child must be under 18 years of age
  • Request must be recommended by the law enforcement agency of jurisdiction.
  • There must be enough descriptive information to believe the broadcast will help.

Missing adults and runaways do not qualify for Amber Alert activation in Indiana. Children taken in child custody disputes generally will not qualify for an Amber Alert unless there is specific credible information indicating a child may be in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.


The Amber Alert Plan in Indiana distributes Amber Alerts using the EAS, but also integrates broadcast fax, e-mail, broadcast station news sources and the Indiana Amber Alert Program webpage.

For more information on the Amber Alert Plan in Indiana contact the Indiana State Police Missing Children at 317-232-8310.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The Amber Plan is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This non-profit center was founded by John Walsh after the abduction and murder of his son, Adam. John is also the host of "America's Most Wanted" television program.

Federal Communications Commission

In February 2002 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) amended its rules for the Emergency Alert System to add a new Child Abduction Emergency (CAE) event code which may be used to activate the Amber Alert Plan messages. The FCC has "strongly encouraged" radio, TV stations and cable outlets to voluntarily use the new CAE event code as soon as their EAS encode/decoder equipment can be modified.

Visit the FCC's website for more information about the Emergency Alert System.

Other Amber Plan Programs

Since the Amber Alert Plan was established in 1997, more than 40 other Amber Plan programs have been adopted or modified at local, regional, and statewide levels. For the latest list of Amber Plan programs nationwide visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website.