JEFFERSON CITY - It's something no parent should have to face - a missing child. Yet it is a reality and MoDOT plays a vital role in helping find abducted children and other missing persons.
When an Amber Alert is issued, MoDOT posts the information on 60 rural electronic message boards on Interstates 70, 44, 55, 29 and 35 and on U.S. Route 60. MoDOT traffic management centers in St. Louis and Kansas City also disseminate the information on their 82 boards in the urban areas when not in use for critical travel information. On Jan. 13, the message boards will highlight Amber Alert Awareness Day.
"When a child is abducted, time is of the essence," said Missy Wilbers, traffic management and operations engineer and MoDOT liaison to the Missouri Highway Patrol on Amber Alerts. "Our message boards provide a direct and immediate way to get information about abducted children out to the public so they can be on the lookout."
MoDOT also has placed fliers in rest areas, welcome centers and MoDOT offices promoting the awareness day. The fliers feature the artwork of Rylie White from Lathrop, Mo., the 2007 national missing children's poster contest winner.
The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas. The AMBER Alert Plan is a voluntary, cooperative partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an emergency bulletin to the public when a child has been abducted and it is believed the child is in danger. Since it was created in 1996, the AMBER Alert program is credited with the successful recovery of 432 children.
Under the AMBER Alert Plan, area radio and television stations interrupt regular programming to air information about the missing child using the Emergency Alert System or EAS (formerly known as the Emergency Broadcast System). That's also when MoDOT's message boards come into play.
In July 2008, MoDOT and the Patrol broadened their efforts to find missing Missourians through a statewide poster campaign called Operation REST - REcovering the LoST. Under the initiative, posters spotlighting missing people are displayed at MoDOT's highway rest areas.
"More than 24 million people visit our rest areas each year, so they provide the perfect sites to distribute information about missing people," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. "Public information is crucial to solving missing persons cases. The more public viewing each poster gets, the better the chances of bringing someone home."