Happy ending offers lessons

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 31, 2010

In the real world, sometimes a story can have a happy ending even if it didn’t quite unfold the way it was originally intended.

That is the case with the recent situation where two children were allegedly kidnapped from their legal guardians in Texas by their mother and brought to Ironton.

The FBI and several local law enforcement agencies worked together late last week to arrest the mother and return the children to Texas.

In addition to old fashioned detective work to look for leads in Ironton because the woman’s mother lived here, this was made possible by the national Amber Alert system.

Ultimately, the system worked because these children were found safe, but it also showed ways the Amber Alerts need to be improved.

An acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response, the alert system was originally named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

The concept centers on disseminating the information about the missing children via a variety of media formats including TV, radio, newspapers and billboards.

The problem last week is that virtually no Tri-State media outlet received notification in advance or if they did the local ties weren’t made clear.

So the system to get information widely distributed to the public didn’t work as it was intended.

We hope this can serve as a learning point and more clearly defined notification measures can be implemented. These should include follow up contact with media via fax, e-mail and phone. It would also makes sense to ask local law enforcement agencies to pass this along to their media contacts.

The Amber Alerts system has proven to be effective but even happy endings can sometimes be made better.