RECs join Alert Missouri
Over the past few
months, the Missouri Department of Public Safety has been meeting with
rural electric cooperatives, private organizations, state agencies and
the Missouri Broadcasters Association to develop a statewide child abduction
alert program. The program is based on the AMBER Alert system instituted
nearly eight years ago as a result of the kidnapping and murder of young
Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas.
Law enforcement experts know from experience that the immediate dissemination
of information is key to returning abducted children safely to their home.
The challenge is to spread information to selected areas as quickly as
possible. Law enforcement agencies need the immediate help of a lot of
eyes and ears if they are to be successful in those critical early hours.
Because electric cooperatives operate radio systems to communicate with
line crews and service vehicles working in rural areas, our local systems
will now be a part of the expanded Alert
Missouri child abduction system. Law enforcement officials will
spread the alert to radio and television stations, state agencies and
others who have volunteered to help launch an immediate search. With this
new program, thousands will be contacted in minutes to begin looking for
a particular vehicle or person suspected in a child abduction.
In announcing the new program, Gov. Bob Holden explained that the new
state system would merge with alert systems that already exist in Missouris
major metropolitan areas. It was also announced that the program would
be expanded from law enforcement agencies to other state agencies that
can enhance the program through their own telecommunications capabilities.
Some of these agencies include the Department of Health, the Department
of Transportation and the Missouri Lottery Commission.
While Missouri has taken a leadership role in this expanded alert program,
it is expected that a national program will be announced very soon. Under
a national umbrella, the individual state programs would be able to work
together better and therefore respond faster if a suspected abductor should
cross state lines. Some see the national system as a piece of a comprehensive
Homeland Security network.
The program within our state boarders is expected to expand rapidly in
the months ahead. Additional resource partners will be added to Alert
Missouri as needed. In addition, the oversight committee established by
executive order would fine tune the program and evaluate its impact on
a continuous basis. The telecommunications framework already in place
has the potential of becoming a sophisticated and reliable multi-use notification
A tip of the old chapeau is in order for all of those who
have been involved in this Alert Missouri effort. I know the rural electric
cooperative employees across the state are eager to add their eyes and
ears to this worthwhile program. They see their involvement as another
example of their deep commitment to community.
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.