(WTAJ) — There’s a missing child in your area, last seen the night before, but wait — you didn’t get an AMBER Alert on your phone, why?

In Pennsylvania, AMBER alerts are only issued for children who have been abducted. Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) will use it to make the public alert, often detailing the make/model and even license plate of the vehicle suspected in the abduction as well as photos of the child(ren). This helps search efforts with the public being aware and on the lookout.

Additional factors are considered in the decision-making process as to whether or not to activate the PA AMBER Alert Plan, according to PSP. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Availability of descriptive information which could assist in the recovery of the child
  • Time elapsed since the child was last seen
  • Reliability of witness(es).

According to Pennsylvania State Police, AMBER Alerts are automatically sent through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program and reach millions of cell phone users. If you see an alert and have any information, you should immediately call 911.

In addition to hitting cell phones, PSP follows a chain of alerts including PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission for the use of electronic signs as well as the Pennsylvania Lottery to get the information to lottery retailers throughout the Commonwealth.

The Department of Justice also outlines recommended criteria:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

While AMBER alerts are a national thing, each state develops its own alert plans and criteria.

“AMBER” stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” It was started in Texas in 1996 after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered while playing near her Texas home.