SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The familiar shrill beeps
used by radio and television to broadcast public
emergencies will be used to help recover kidnapped
children, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced
The program, known as the Rachael Alert, went into
effect Tuesday. It will use the state's Emergency
Alert System to provide broadcasters information about
an abducted child. Television stations can incorporate
the information into the "crawl," text at the bottom
of the television screen.
The system was named for Rachael Runyan, a
3-year-old abducted in 1982 from a park near her home
in Sunset. Her decomposed body was found 24 days later
in Weber Canyon. The killing remains unsolved.
"This is the next best honorable thing we can do
for Rachael," said Sunset police Chief Ken Eborn.
The program was adapted from the Amber Plan, named
for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was abducted and
murdered in Texas in 1996. Utah is the ninth state to
establish such a program, along with a number of
cities and counties.
There are four criteria for the alert:
- The child is assumed kidnapped;
- The child is 15 or younger, or has a proven
mental or physical disability;
- The child is in imminent danger of serious injury
- There is information provided to aid the police,
such as a description of the abductor, the abductor's
vehicle or the child's last known location.
If all those conditions are met, police fax a form
to the broadcasters that includes all available
information. Broadcasters will require some sort of
password to ensure the alert's legitimacy.
Broadcasters may choose whether to activate the
emergency system to announce the Rachael Alert, said
Utah Broadcasters Association chief Dale
Because the system is optional, a station in St.
George, for example, may decline to issue an emergency
broadcast if the child was abducted in northern
The system won't be used to track runaways or
children involved in custody disputes, Zabriskie
Shurtleff pointed to a recent situation in Pleasant
Grove where an autistic child went missing, and
hundreds of volunteers turned out to help search.
While that incident wouldn't have qualified for a
Rachael Alert, it showed how the community can quickly
mobilize to help police.
"We have thousands, tens of thousands, of Utahns
with their eyes open and cell phones ready," Shurtleff
Commissioner of Public Safety Robert Flowers said
that the alert would allow the shutdown of I-15 in the
event of a search.
"I wish we'd had this program 20 years ago," said
Racheal's mother, Elaine Runyan-Simmons, who joined
those announcing the program at the state's emergency
headquarters on Capitol Hill. "If we just save one
child it will be so worth it."