KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Amber Alerts in the United States (also stylized by agencies as AMBER Alert) indicate a missing child. In Tennessee, there are certain criteria for a missing child case must meet for issuance across the Volunteer State.

According to the state’s only issuing agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the TBI reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing children cases, in which law enforcement believes that a child is in imminent danger.

AMBER is a backronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The alert was named after Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas back in 1996.

The TBI partners with other agencies – including TEMA, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and others – to widely share the message of vital information about the missing child and – if or when available – the suspect, vehicle, and direction of travel.

In order to issue an AMBER Alert, the TBI says the following criteria must be met:

  • The person is 17 years of age or younger
  • The child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death
  • There is a description of the child, the abductor, or vehicle
  • On a request from another state for activation, there is a direct and identified nexus to the state of Tennessee and that information is conveyed to TBI at the time of the request.

Issuing an AMBER Alert is not as simple as pressing a single button at TBI Headquarters. Instead, it’s a complex process, requiring various layers of notification across Tennessee. The TBI places priority on notifying the media, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and TBI’s social media audience, in an effort to quickly share information with the public at large. The TBI also works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to activate the cellular telephone network, billboards, and other secondary alert notifications.


The TBI also says each state has different criteria for alerts for missing individuals. The TBI formed Tennessee’s program based on national best practices and to provide consistency and flexibility to respond in the most appropriate way depending on the circumstances of each case.