What Warrants An Amber Alert

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Earlier this week the West Virginia State Police issued an Amber Alert for two children who were abducted after the van they were in was stolen.
The children were later found unharmed, but officials are urging parents to understand what it takes to have an Amber Alert issued and what each parent should keep close at hand in case of an emergency.

It's every parents worst nightmare... a child or children missing. With a million things running through your mind-- officials say first and foremost contact them-- and try to remain as calm as possible.

"Try to give us as much information as possible about about the abductor, about the child, clothing description, direction of travel," says Lt. Patrick Gherke, of the Washington County Sheriff's Office. "So, then we can let other agencies know we are looking for this child or missing children."

Not every missing child warrants an Amber Alert. Officials are now spelling out the criteria needed to issue the emergency alert.

"Children must be 17 years of age or younger. The child must be in danger of immediate harm or death," Lt. Gherke continues. "We have to have enough description to go on to locate the child."

In addition to those details, the alert cannot be issued for a runaway child or a child taken by a family member.

"It cannot be used for run away children only or a child taken by a family members... unless they are is a serious risk of bodily harm or death. And, it must be recommended by the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in that case."

Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy says criteria for the Amber Alert is the same in West Virginia but adds that parents need to keep a log of all calls made and all peoples spoken with, including law enforcement, once the child is discovered missing.

Sheriff Sandy also says parents need to make sure the family dentist has a copy of dental records for all children.

Early preparation could help quell fears if the unthinkable happens.

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