Amber Alerts: What they are and what to do if one pops up on your phone


Amber Alerts display across phone screens, highway signs and broadcasts when a child is abducted. 

There are requirements that a kidnapping case needs to fit in order for an Amber Alert to go out — so if you get one, the situation is extremely serious. 

If you have ever gotten a notification for an Amber Alert, you may have been unsure about how to help and what to do next. 


Here is an overview of what to do if you receive an Amber Alert — and a bit of background on the emergency system as well. 

Check out these points.

A highway sign for an Amber Alert

One place where Amber Alerts can be seen is highway signs. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

  1. Why is this called an Amber Alert?
  2. What states get the most Amber Alerts?
  3. What do I do when I receive an Amber Alert?

1. Why is this called an Amber Alert?

The Amber Alert system has been in place since 1996. 

It stands for America’s Broadcast Emergency Response and is named after Amber Hagerman. 

While riding her bike in Arlington, Texas, in 1996, 9-year-old Hagerman was kidnapped. 

Four days after her abduction, her body was found in a creek about four miles away. 

The person responsible for the brutal crime has still not been caught. This was the case that inspired the Amber Alert system in place now. 

A policewoman working on a computer

There are a series of requirements that must be met in order for an Amber Alert to be issued by authorities. (PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/AFP via Getty Images)

2. What states get the most Amber Alerts? 

Year after year, the state of Texas — where the incident that inspired the Amber Alert occurred — gets the most alerts. 

In 2021, the Office of Justice Programs reported 33 alerts in the state of Texas. 

3. What do I do when I receive an Amber Alert?

If you receive an Amber Alert, it means that a child is in danger in the area, and it is vital to act fast.

In order for an Amber Alert to be issued, there are a series of requirements that must first be met. 

The first step is that law enforcement determines a child has been abducted and that the child is at risk of serious injury or death. 


For an Amber Alert to be issued, law enforcement needs to have a detailed description of the child at risk and the captor or the captor’s vehicle. 

Lastly, Amber Alerts are only issued for abducted children who are under the age of 17. 

Amber Alert message on a cell phone

When an Amber Alert is issued to your phone, read the description carefully and be extra aware of your surroundings in case you see something that meets the description. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

An Amber Alert is often distributed through cell phones, broadcast networks and highway signs. If you see or hear an Amber Alert, take the time to read through it and familiarize yourself with what law enforcement is seeking. 

Keep these descriptions in your mind and be on the lookout. 


If you are out and see a vehicle or individual that matches the description on the Amber Alert, call 911 or the number that is given through the alert immediately and give as much detail as you possibly can about what you saw. 

Any information you have could save a child’s life. 


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