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AMBER Alert test across Montana planned for Friday

Posted at 2:40 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 16:41:35-05

GREAT FALLS - The Montana Department of Justice plans to conduct a test of the AMBER Alert system on Friday, Jan. 13 at approximately 10 a.m.

The agency said in a news release that when a child is abducted under life-threatening circumstances, seconds count.

An AMBER Alert can be issued to alert the public to assist law enforcement in searching for and saving the child.

Montana has launched 54 AMBER Alerts over the last 20 years, and all 76 children involved have been located.

During the test on Friday, a message will be broadcast on cell phones, Montana TV and radio stations, the National Weather Service Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather radio, the Montana Lottery, and the Montana Department of Transportation 511 information line.

No action is required by the public during the test. People can provide feedback to MT DOJ by clicking here.

The AMBER Alert program started in Texas in 1996 after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered. In response to community concern, broadcasters in the area teamed up with law enforcement agencies to establish a program capable of quickly distributing information about child abductions to the general public. In memory of Amber, the program was called the AMBER Plan – America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

The criteria for the MT DOJ to issue an AMBER Alert are:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that a child has been abducted or has disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
  • The missing child is age 17 years or younger, or has a proven mental or physical disability.
  • The law enforcement agency believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer.

The agency also sometimes a Missing/Endangered Person Alert (MEPA) to find runaways and missing children, children involved in custody disputes, and missing adults. The criteria for issuing a MEPA are:

  • Do the circumstances fail to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert?
  • Is the person missing under unexplained, involuntary or suspicious circumstances?
  • Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, or environmental or weather conditions; to be in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or is there some other factor that may put the person in peril?
  • Is there information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the missing person? The initial advisory will include any available information, like name, age, physical description, date of birth and where the person was last seen. It might also include information about whether the person has a health condition or physical or mental disability.