The Ontario Association of Broadcasters (OAB) is in an agreement with the Ontario Provincial Police Service (OPP) and Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management (EMOOFM) to spearhead the ongoing coordination of the “Amber Alert” program on radio and television stations across the province. The OAB Emergency Alerting Committee is actively working to improve emergency communication, both between stations and their local emergency coordinators, as well as with EMOOFM and Pelmorex regarding the NAAD system. The Amber Alert is a critical missing child response program that utilizes the resources of law enforcement and media to notify the public when children are kidnapped by predators.NAAD is the CRTC mandated emergency broadcast system, which is located and run from Pelmorex. Alerts are initiated by the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management Ontario. Amber Alerts are initiated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
The provision of NAAD is a great advance to emergency alerting. But, it is limited: it does not provide a rich source of information. That’s where Radio comes in. As broadcasters, we are proud of our heritage of providing service during disasters. However, to provide the best quality of service, it is important that we are totally prepared should disaster strike.
- INTERNAL – Have your stations planned for an emergency?
- EXTERNAL – Do local decision makers understand what you can do and how to work with you during emergencies?
- AT HOME – Do you and your families have a battery operated radio?
Ontario Amber Alert ProtocolOnce broadcasters receive the Amber Alert radio and television stations interrupt regularly scheduled programming to notify the public that a child is missing. February 21st, 2007 the OAB and OPP conducted a test of the Amber Alert Broadcast System. The test was from authorization procedures within the OPP up to but NOT including an actual broadcast. Prior to any test we ask all stations to review their contact information. Thank you to all members for participating.
Review of test procedure
- Ensure we have the proper contact information for your station, self update emails are sent out quarterly for your review.
- Alerts should continue for four hours or until otherwise notified by the OPP.
- Please ensure your staff read the Amber Alert Protocol and clearly know when the Amber Alert is to be activated.
- Amber Alert in Action, March 22, 2010: Resident Gary Yan spots described youth and adult in car – Interview
Background:In 1996 the kidnapping and brutal murder of nine year old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas made the community come together and think of innovative ways in which to make their community a safer place for their children. This is how the AMBER Alert system was founded. When there’s a confirmed case of a child abduction police notify their local broadcasters and supply them with all known information on the child, their abductor and any vehicle involved. The police now have thousands of sets of eyes trying to assist them in saving the child’s life and apprehending their abductor. Police believe the first two to five hours of an abduction are the most crucial. So it’s important to get the information on the missing child out quickly and often. In the US the program has gone nationwide.
Amber Alert in Ontario:The government of Ontario endorsed the Amber Alert program in this province. The Ontario Amber Alert program is a voluntary cooperative plan between radio/television stations, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Provincial Police. The plan calls for the OPP to provide media outlets with critical information concerning a confirmed child abduction, which could assist locating the child. The Ontario Association of Broadcasters is acting as the liaison between radio/TV and the OPP.
How an Amber Alert is Activated
- A request to activate an Amber Alert must be made by an Ontario law enforcement officer holding the rank of Inspector or above.
- The request is send to OPP Headquarters.
- The GHQ 24 hour Duty office is responsible for ensuring the Amber Alert meets the criteria and contacting the media via their requested method (based on time of day).
- The GHQ Duty office is also responsible for canceling an Alert.
Criteria:Before an alert is initiated, the following three criteria must be met:
- Law enforcement agency confirms a child under 18 years of age has been abducted
- Law enforcement agency believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicated that the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death; and
- There is enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help in locating the child.
Ontario Amber Alert response
Procedures for Radio/TV
- Agree to air Amber Alerts.
- Amber Alerts may only be issued and cancelled by the OPP. The OPP may issue the alert in a region of Ontario or province wide, depending on the circumstances.
- Implement the Amber Alert Response Protocol within each individual station. Each staff member should understand how an AMBER Alert will be handled when it is received. You are encouraged to name an Amber Alert Director (ie. news director) who would be responsible for maintaining the protocol.
- Develop and discuss your Amber Alert Response Protocol with your local OPP community services officer.
- The Amber Alert should be put on the air as soon as possible, using the official Amber Alert Tone. It is recommended that the Alert be aired four times per hour for approximately four hours or until the Alert is cancelled.