Understanding the Types of Missing Person Alerts

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When someone goes missing, an alert goes out to TV news stations, radio stations, newspapers, and even specialized signs on the highway. Here’s the difference between the different types of alerts.


An AMBER alert is an urgent bulletin about a missing child. Law Enforcement must follow strict rules about issuing this type of alert for children that are in immediate danger.

AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It was created in honor of Amber Hagerman, a girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996.

Silver Alert

A Silver Alert is a special type of notification issued for a missing elderly person who may have dementia or another cognitive issue that puts them in danger. People with dementia can wander away from home and might not be aware of their surroundings. In some states, Silver Alerts also include children and adults with mental disabilities.

Blue Alert

A Blue Alert is a  nationwide alert system for law enforcement officers that have been hurt or killed. Unlike the other alerts on this list, a Blue Alert focuses on catching the perpetrator instead of finding the victim (since LEOs are unlikely to be abducted in the line of duty).

Code Adam

Code Adam is the name for a system adopted by many businesses, as well as federal office buildings, to find a missing child. In a Code Adam situation, the child might simply be lost. You can read more about what to do when a Code Adam is called here.

Endangered Missing

If a missing person does not meet the criteria for one of the alerts above, they may still be labeled as “endangered missing.” This helps differentiate runaways from kidnapping victims, as well as people with medical conditions who need to be found quickly.

Typically, a person under 18 or over 65 will automatically be considered “endangered missing.” If police have reason to suspect that something bad has happened to a person, they might upgrade the status to endangered. However, people who disappear in bad weather or a dangerous area may also be considered endangered.

It’s ultimately up to local law enforcement how a missing person case will be classified.