COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The sound, lights, pictures and text on communication devices during an AMBER alert warn people that a child has been kidnapped.

AMBER alerts were set up first in Texas in 1996 after a child was abducted and murdered there; it’s now a national program.

Four criteria have to be met in Ohio in order to trigger the warning, according to the Ohio AMBER Plan:

  • Law enforcement confirms the child is under 18 years of age.
  • Law enforcement believes the abduction poses a credible threat of immediate danger or serious bodily harm or death to the child.
  • There is sufficient descriptive information about the child, the suspect, and/or the circumstances surrounding the abduction to believe that activation of the alert will help locate the child.
  • A law enforcement agency determines the child is not a runaway, and has not been abducted as a result of a family abduction, unless the investigation determines the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death.

When an AMBER alert is issued, highway alert signs, cell phones, televisions and other communication devices broadcast an urgent news bulletin. The purpose is to get the public involved quickly, find the child, and retrieve them safely.

AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but the name is also a tribute to the nine-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Texas, Amber Hagerman.