Understanding Schweinfurt's Amber Alert
July 2, 2013
SCHWEINFURT, Germany (July 2, 2013) -- The report of a missing child within the U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt military community sets into motion a series of events, launching garrison officials and military police into full alert, and in some cases an amber alert is flashed on the garrison Facebook page.
Parental vigilance over children is critical to a child's safety, but understanding what unfolds after a child goes missing could save a life.
"If you feel as though your child is missing, call the MPs right away," said USAG Schweinfurt provost marshal, Capt. Liz Mooney.
When the call is received by the military police, a missing child alert is first initiated. All available MPs are immediately informed and given a description of the child. This includes race, age, height, weight, clothing worn at time of disappearance, known locations that the child frequents, the child's friends and the location where the child was last seen.
"Every call received about a missing child is handled individually and on a case-by-case basis," said Mooney. "The more information a parent can provide us, the better."
That information is quickly delivered to all of Schweinfurt's installation gate guards to ensure the child does not leave post. In most cases, the child is found within minutes after the alert is initiated, Mooney said.
Once Schweinfurt's MPs are given their be-on-the-lookout orders, or BOLO, the German police are also notified. The German police, known as the Polizei, then initiate their own search.
Leveraging social media has become an innovative resource to notify the public and quickly garner community look-out teams. The provost marshal forwards the missing child report up through garrison leadership, who then decides whether to use Facebook.
Dubbed an "Amber Alert," the flash report tells the public that a child is missing. And it's proven to work.
Once the alert goes live on Facebook, the child is typically found in less than an hour, said Mooney. And according to Facebook Insights -- the tool used to measure the social media site's "reachability" -- the amber alerts rank among the top ten most popular posts. More than 2,000 individual Facebook users, for example, viewed an amber alert sent March 23. About 250 clicked on the post and another 58 people either commented or shared the post.
"We will use all tools available to locate children who come up missing. Using Facebook to aid us in the search is just one resource we can utilize. The most important thing we can do as a parent or caregiver though is to maintain vigilance over our children. We owe it to them," said former the garrison commander, Lt. Col. Michael Runey.
The term "amber alert" was first coined in 1996 when Amber Hager went missing at the age of 9 in Arlington, Texas. The term AMBER later became an acronym for "America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response," according to the government website aimed at locating missing children.
The military police desk can be reached at 09721-96-6766 or DSN 354-6766. To learn more, visit the Directorate of Emergency Services webpage at www.schweinfurt.army.mil/directorates/des.
"Garrison MPs are dedicated and willing to ensure the safety of the Schweinfurt community, regardless of age," Mooney said. "All members of the community share the responsibility of keeping the community safe."