Rural Missouri Magazine

RECs join Alert Missouri

Frank Stork
by Frank Stork

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 Missouri’s 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 system.

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.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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