Home & FamilyParentingSummer Safety: Amber Alert as the Last Resort, But not Good Enough

Summer Safety: Amber Alert as the Last Resort, But not Good Enough

Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed an increasing number of missing people posts on social media. They range from amber alerts, silver alerts to missing people reports. On one of the Mommy Groups (Cat & Nat Chat) I frequent, someone shared a post about a missing 5 year old boy, Lucas Hernandez. Several questions surfaced and discussion ensued regarding the backstory. Some thought foul play was involved. While others questioned why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued? That got me to start thinking, how does Amber Alert work, what other alternatives are there, and is there a better solution?

For many of us, Amber Alert is synonymous with missing person alerts. We are aware of the name, but how many of us actually know how it works? The initial assumption is that it applies to all missing persons in a standardized manner. The second assumption is that it can be issued quickly. However, what many are not aware of is that while the authorities follow the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) recommended criterias, the specific guidelines may vary from state to state, province to province, and country to country. As such, it’s important to appreciate that among other things, factors like government funding or budgets, police resources or priorities, and human judgement all play a factor in the issuance of an Amber Alert.

amber alert workImage Source: Flickr

Nevertheless, despite the nuances, authorities generally consider 5 key criteria when determining whether a missing person report qualifies for an Amber Alert:

  • Has an abduction occurred?
  • Is the child believed to be in imminent danger?
  • Is there enough information available to assist in a recovery?
  • Is the child 17 years of age or younger?
  • Has the child’s name and information been entered into the National Crime Information Center system?

Given this information, it provides insight or context into why an event like Lucas Hernandez’s, or the many situations where a child wanders off may not qualify for an Amber Alert. Which really does beg the question: what other solutions are there? And what can parents and caregivers do to be more proactive? “As of December 23, 2015 there have been 800 children rescued and returned specifically because of AMBER Alert”. However, put into context, “approximately 2,300 Americans (children & adults) are reported missing every day within the USA.” It isn’t the most promising statistic.

I am but one of many fortunate parents who can relate to the plight of parents whose child has wandered off during the course of everyday life, and has been safely returned to me. In speaking with friends and family, however, I was surprised to learn that this happens a lot. Whether at a waterpark, arcade, supermarket, or traveling abroad, it seems like almost everyone I speak with has had a similar experience or story: “I looked away for a second, and then my kid was gone!” “I started freaking out and screaming frantically, asking anyone and everyone around me for help.” “It was the worst experience for a parent.”

After reflecting on my own experience, listening to the stories of others, reading the discussions on various Mommy groups about the same, and learning more about the inner workings of Amber Alert, it occurred to me that when I see these missing person posts or messages, I am usually at home, miles away from where the person was last seen. Further, the reports are usually from hours or days prior, so even if I wanted to help, I wouldn’t be very helpful. In short, appreciating awareness (i.e. disseminating information) is key to quickly finding a missing person, the messages being sent via social media and Amber Alert (when qualified) are not contextually, geographically, or temporally relevant. That got me thinking: there has to be a more effective solution.

The current market of tracking devices is filled with items that are either expensive and complicated or, for a lack of a better word, useless. My friend said to me, she was looking for something when she traveled abroad with her toddler and found nothing useful. The tracking devices either had a narrow radius, short battery life, required a SIM card and cell signal to work, or the technology was not compatible with the foreign country’s network. The other options like tattoos and dog tags were too passive, or useless if locals didn’t speak the same language.

As a busy mom myself, I understood where she was coming from. If you’re in that situation, however unthinkable, you just need something that works. No excuses. So, after coming up empty handed, in the journey to solve the foregoing challenges, we created Allosentry. Not to replace Amber Alert or the fancy products out there, but to complement and fill the gaps with an affordable, easy to use, and reliable solution. Leveraging technology and the community, wherever you may be, to reunite through crowdsearch.

Allosentry enables registered users to send a missing person notification to other people within their vicinity, up to 100 meters radius. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, have cell signal or wifi, those in proximity will receive repopulated descriptors of the missing person. When the person is found, the parent or caregiver can be contacted via the initial message, and be reunited with their loved ones.

The app is free to download, and there is an one time in-app fee of USD $4.99. No recurring annual or monthly fees. Allosentry will integrate seamlessly into your life, without the need of a separate device. The notification will be sent to virtually all Android devices whether they have the app or not, and all iOS devices with the app.

We wanted a product that everyone can benefit from. Whether you have small children, parents with dementia, or planning to travel abroad, this is a great solution for you. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get piece of mind knowing you’re prepared in the unforeseeable event your loved one wanders off, is lost, or goes missing. Though we hope you will never need to use the Allosentry app, our goal is to be there for you if you ever need. Kids will be kids. Life happens. Be proactive. Be prepared.

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