The PSP Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit oversees the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert program. The system is designed to resolve child abuction emergencies as quickly as possible. They also generate Missing Endangered Person Advisory (MEPA) messages.

The AMBER Alert plan

AMBER Alert provides descriptive information about abducted children and, if known, their abductors to enlist public support in the search efforts. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is used to inform the public of child abductions. The ultimate goal is to save the life of the child.

Alert messages online

Pennsylvania AMBER Alert and MEPA messages and images are distributed on PSP X (Twitter).


As of January 1, 2013, AMBER Alerts are automatically sent through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program to millions of cell phone users.

If you have a WEA-enabled phone, you are automatically enrolled for the three alerts: President, Imminent Threat, and AMBER Alerts. The addition of AMBER Alerts to this notification system is a result of a partnership between CTIA and the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Any questions or concerns regarding an AMBER Alert message received on your phone should be directed to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), which manages the secondary distribution of AMBER Alerts.

If you would like notifications sent to your email and mobile, please sign up at AlertPA CodeRed.

The AMBER Alert Plan is a method of alerting citizens of Pennsylvania when a child has been abducted. The program was developed for Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania State Police and named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted while playing near her home in Texas and subsequently murdered in 1996.

The AMBER Alert Plan uses the Emergency Alert System (EAS), via the code CAE (Child Abduction Emergency) to warn citizens by radio and television when a child abduction has occurred. The emergency alert contains information regarding the victim, the suspect, and, if applicable, the suspect's vehicle information. This allows the media to assist police by getting the message out immediately and citizens to report sightings of the child, perpetrator, or any other associated information. If a person has information concerning an abduction, they should report that information immediately to police by calling 911. The ultimate goal is to save the life of a child.

For the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert Plan to be activated, law enforcement must be satisfied the following criteria have been met:

  • The abducted person must be under eighteen (18) years of age;
  • The abducted child is believed to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
  • Additional factors are considered in the decision-making process as to whether or not to activate the PA AMBER Alert Plan. These factors include, but are not limited to: availability of descriptive information that could assist in the recovery of the child, time elapsed since the child was last seen, and reliability of witness(es).

The plan is limited to abducted children, and, therefore, excludes children believed to be runaways or throwaways from home.

After a police department initiates an investigation of an abducted child and all of the above criteria have been met, State Police will analyze the reported information. If there is enough information available to believe that an activation will assist in the recovery of the child, the AMBER Alert Plan will be put into effect. Timing is critical in a child abduction case. We encourage investigators to report a case immediately in order to get information out to the public so the child can be found unharmed. This plan can be activated anywhere in the Commonwealth. The plan can also be utilized for interstate abductions through a cooperative effort with other states across the nation.

The Pennsylvania State Police coordinates AMBER Alert efforts with the help of stakeholders from PEMA, PennDOT, PA Turnpike, PA Association of Broadcasters, PA Newspaper Association, PA Broadband Cable Association, PA Chiefs of Police Association, Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission, PA Lottery Commission, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of PA.

Crimes against children, particularly cases involving nonfamily abductions, continue to be an area of concern for law enforcement authorities. National studies revealed that children abducted with the intent to commit homicide are killed within the first hours to one day of the abduction. Time is critical in saving the lives of abducted children.

The creation of the PA AMBER Alert Child Abduction Response Plan is an effort to enhance law enforcement’s ability to respond to this issue in the hope of preventing the victimization of children in Pennsylvania.

The AMBER Alert Plan originated in Texas in memory of Amber Hagerman, an abduction and murder victim. The Pennsylvania State Police, with the cooperation and assistance of other sponsors, developed the plan for Pennsylvania.

Law enforcement and the media worked together to establish activation criteria, ensuring the use of public notifications only when appropriate. 

Activation of the Pennsylvania AMBER Alert Plan requires that:

  • The abducted person must be a child less than 18 years old;
  • Law enforcement has reason to believe the abducted child is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
  • Additional factors include, but are not limited to, the availability of descriptive information that could assist in the child's recovery, time elapsed since the child's last sighting, and reliability of witness(es).

The plan is limited to abductions and excludes children who run away from home or are told to leave home by a household adult. 

Police receive a report of an abduction and initiate an investigation.

Upon confirming an abduction meeting AMBER Alert criteria, police notify the Pennsylvania State Police by telephone and via the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network (CLEAN).

The Pennsylvania State Police issues a statewide alert to all law enforcement in the Commonwealth.

The following methods of dissemination can occur concurrently:

  • EAS activation notifies citizens of all pertinent information.
  • The Pennsylvania State Police posts the information to PSP X (Twitter).
  • If applicable, the Pennsylvania State Police notifies the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for roadway sign messaging and highway advisory radio.
  • The Pennsylvania State Police contacts the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission to disseminate information to retailers.
  • Secondary disseminations are coordinated through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
  • Investigating law enforcement agency notifies the Pennsylvania State Police of critical updates, recoveries or cancelations.

By swiftly alerting the public of an abduction, the public can assist in the search efforts for the abducted child. The public is not to take police action but can assist law enforcement by reporting sightings of the child, perpetrator, or other associated information.

Anyone with information about the abduction should immediately notify the police by calling 911.

The role of police is to act fast, gather accurate information, and relay it to the State Police.

The media can notify large numbers of citizens quickly. Their role is to get the word out to help in the search.

The AMBER Alert Plan can alert the public anywhere in Pennsylvania through the Emergency Alert System. The plan can also notify other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in surrounding states.

The Missing Endangered Person Advisory (MEPA) system is designed to assist in the recovery of missing persons who are at special risk of harm or injury. Alerts are sent to local media for distribution to the public, and to local law enforcement, to assist in the recovery.

MEPA criteria include the following considerations:

  • The incident circumstances do not meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert, and
  • The person(s) are missing under unexplained, involuntary, or suspicious circumstances, or
  • The person's age or health, a mental or physical disability, or current weather or environmental conditions place the missing person in peril of serious bodily injury or death, and
  • Public notification could assist in a safe recovery.

Other relevant factors:

  • Quality/quantity of descriptive information
  • Time elapsed since last seen
  • Reliability of witnesses

AlertPA will send AMBER Alert information to any device registered to receive PA AMBER Alert notifications. Depending on the device (how many characters are available), the entire message may not appear. The entire text of all messages will be posted to PSP X (Twitter). You can sign up for AlertPA.