As we travel throughout Florida we are seeing more and more message boards displaying AMBER or SILVER Alerts. Who has activated the Message Boards? The Florida Department of Law Enforcement in cooperation with the Department of Community Affairs, Florida Association of Broadcasters, Inc., Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Lottery, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida’s Police Departments and Sheriff’s Offices are responsible for activation of the Florida AMBER and SILVER Alert Message Boards.
What are the purposes of these Message Boards?
The Florida AMBER Plan was established in 2000, making Florida the second state in the nation to develop a statewide AMBER Alert. The purpose of the Plan is to broadcast critical information of an abducted child as quickly as possible to the media and general public.
The AMBER Alert was named for nine year-old Amber Hagerman. She was abducted in 1996 while riding her bicycle outside of her grandparent’s home in Texas. She was found deceased four days later. The case is still unsolved. AMBER has since become an acronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response”.
Florida’s Silver Alert is specifically for cognitively impaired individuals who become lost while driving a car. Silver Alert is a plan to help local law enforcement in the rescue of missing persons who have a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. On October 9, 2008, Governor Charlie Crist signed Executive Order 08-211 enacting Florida’s ‘Silver Alert,’ which allows the immediate broadcast of information to the public regarding missing elders with dementia or other cognitive impairment. The Executive Order provides a coordinated response between local and state law enforcement to quickly broadcast important information to citizens so they can assist local law enforcement in the rescue of the endangered person and notify law enforcement with helpful information.
Governor Crist was joined by Mary Lallucci, an advocate for the Silver Alert program. Earlier this year, Lallucci’s 86-year-old mother Mary Zelter disappeared after signing out of her assisted living facility in Largo to drive to the supermarket. A week later, Zelter and the vehicle she was driving were found in the inter-coastal waterway, about nine miles from her assisted living facility. Zelter suffered from dementia.
The missing person must be age 60 or older and present a clear indication that the individual has an irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties, or under extraordinary circumstances when a person age 18 to 59 has irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties and law enforcement has determined the individual lacks the capacity to consent and that the use of dynamic message signs may be the only possible way to rescue the missing person.
As you are traveling the highways of Florida and notice the Message Board displaying either an “AMBER” or a “SILVER” alert, please take notice as it might be your child, parent or loved one that is in need of your assistance. Also, if you do see a vehicle that matches the description of the vehicles, simply dial 911 and give the emergency dispatcher the information they will need in order to save a life.