FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Q. Can the CHP activate an AMBER Alert without a vehicle?
  • A. Yes, a vehicle is not required to activate an AMBER Alert. There have been cases where a victim was abducted and a vehicle was not used in the abduction. The AMBER Alert program has proven to be very beneficial whether or not a vehicle is used during the abduction.
  • Q. What are the criteria to activate an AMBER Alert?
  • A. There is four criteria that have to be met in order to activate an AMBER Alert:
    • It has been confirmed that an abduction has occurred, or the child has been taken by anyone, including but not limited to a parent or guardian.
    • The victim is 17 years of age or younger, or have a proven mental or physical disability.
    • There is reason to believe the victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
    • There is information available that, if disseminated to the general public, could assist in the safe recovery of the victim.
  • Q. What is an AMBER Alert?
  • A. When it is determined that the AMBER Alert criteria has been met, the CHP notifies the National Weather Service who then sends a pre-written description to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Radio. The message is then disseminated to the public via the radio and television. This is called the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS is designated by a tone prior to the message. By law, the EAS message is the AMBER Alert. The other measures of disseminating AMBER alert information (Changeable Message Signs, Emergency Digital Information System, Be-On-The-Lookouts, Wireless Emergency Alerts, Social Media and the CHP Website) are all secondary notifications.
  • Q. I’ve noticed the freeway signs aren’t always turned on during an AMBER Alert. Why?
  • A. The Changeable Message Signs (CMS) are only activated if there is a license plate or a distinctive vehicle description associated with the abduction. AMBER Alerts can be activated without a vehicle. The Emergency Alert System is the only system that is required by law to be activated during an AMBER Alert.
  • Q. Are AMBER Alerts only distributed statewide or can they be broadcast in my local area?
  • A. AMBER Alerts can be distributed regionally (by county) or statewide. AMBER Alerts are primarily activated regionally until it is necessary to broaden the alert.
  • Q. How can I sign up to receive AMBER Alerts on my personal Facebook page?
  • A. When on Facebook, type California AMBER Alert in the search box. Open the California AMBER Alert link and click on the “like.” You will automatically receive current AMBER Alerts on your Facebook page. During an AMBER Alert, there is a link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s poster for the current AMBER Alert.
  • Q. What is the Wireless Emergency Alert program?
  • A. The Wireless Emergency Alert program is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It distributes notifications from authorized federal, state, local and tribal government agencies that alert customers with capable devices of imminent threats to safety or an emergency situation. The messages are intended as a supplement to the existing Emergency Alert System, which broadcasts alerts over radio and television.

    In addition to AMBER Alerts, the program includes National Weather Service, Presidential and imminent threat alerts. If you own a capable mobile device, you will automatically receive these alerts when you are in the geographic area where an alert has been issued.

    Because the alerts are sent on a special wireless carrier channel called Cell Broadcast, they are not affected by congestion on the voice or SMS text channels. The alerts are transmitted simultaneously to all mobile devices within range of the cellular carrier towers in the affected area. The system does not need to know your mobile number and it does not track your whereabouts; it simply broadcasts the alert, and any mobile devices that can "hear" the alert will display it to the user. Check with your cell phone carrier regarding information concerning your personal cell phone device and service.
    The WEA will only be activated when a vehicle license plate is known.
  • Q. What if my child is missing but the AMBER Alert criteria are not met?
  • A. An Endangered Missing Advisory (EMA) can be issued in cases where the statutory criteria for an AMBER Alert are not met; however, an agency has reasons to believe the person is at risk or endangered and assistance in distributing information to help locate the individual(s) is desired. Although not all inclusive, the following are examples where an EMA, versus an AMBER Alert, may be appropriate:
    • A custodial parent takes their child and due to specific circumstances, the investigating agency deems the child to be at-risk/endangered.
    • A juvenile is reported missing and there is no indication or confirmation that an abduction occurred.
    • A person with a known medical condition, such as dementia, is reported missing.
    An EMA involves many of the same alerting/notification measures utilized during an AMBER Alert, except for there is no activation of the EAS. Typically, CMS are also not utilized for an EMA. An EMA generally consists of an Emergency Digital Information Service (EDIS) message, APBNet flyer, Be-On-the-Look-Out broadcasts, U.S./Mexico border notification (if appropriate), and notification to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Additional notification systems can be used during an EMA; however, they are used on a case-by-case basis.

 

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