Digital Signs and Amber Alert
Amber Alert is an emergency child abduction alert created to save the life of a child. Originally, the Amber Alert Program in Wisconsin was a partnership between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters to alert the general public when a child is abducted. In this cooperative plan, radio and television stations interrupt programming with an emergency tone similar to the one used to warn of severe weather conditions. The Amber Alert Program in Wisconsin is coordinated by the Department of Justice.
OAAW Joins the Amber Alert Network
In 2006, Wisconsin law was changed to allow digital billboards where messages can be changed electronically. Soon after, companies began installing these special sign faces and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Wisconsin (OAAW) approached the Department of Justice (DOJ) offering to be part of the Amber Alert program. The OAAW was welcomed by everyone at DOJ and soon became a partner in the alert network.
Digital billboards are uniquely suited to being part of the Amber Alert system. The signs are seen by people while they are on the road and the message can include a description of a vehicle, a suspect, and the child along with a photograph. Drivers are given the vital information they need to alert law enforcement if they "saw something". Because of the way digital billboards are updated by computer, the messages can change as new information is made available, always providing the most up to date and pertinent details to drivers.
OAAW members agreed to donate time on their digital billboards to Amber Alert exclusively for two hours after an Alert is issued - the two hours when it could do the most good. OAAW further promised to keep those Alerts in rotation for 48 more hours or until the Alert was resolved.
Today nine outdoor advertising companies have more than 100 digital billboards in the Amber Alert Network. These signs are in Madison, the greater Milwaukee area, Racine, Janesville, Wisconsin Dells, Weston, Stevens Point, the greater Green Bay area, Neenah, Kaukauna, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Eau Claire, West Salem, and Johnson Creek.
The Outdoor Advertising Association of Wisconsin is proud to be a part of such a meaningful and successful program. We hope that the Amber Alert Network will never have to be activated again, but OAAW companies are here, ready to serve, if and when law enforcement needs our help to return missing children to their loved ones.
OAAW Recognized by Attorney General Van Hollen
At the Wisconsin's Missing Children and Adults Awareness Day Ceremony on May 19, 2010, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen presented the Special Services Award to OAAW and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). The award recognized both organizations for providing digital billboards free-of-charge to alert thousands of citizens within minutes of Amber Alert Activation. Brad Yarmark, President of OAAW, and Jeff Golimowski, Communications Director for OAAA, accepted the awards on behalf of the two associations.
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National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
In 2008, OAAW's national counterpart, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to increase the chances of law enforcement locating abducted children. The effort started by reviewing the successful partnerships between law enforcement and outdoor advertising companies around the country, including Wisconsin's unique statewide relationship between the DOJ and OAAW.
The OAAA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children knew they had a system which worked on the local level, but it was needed everywhere. In working together, and with the help of OAAA members, OAAA and NCMEC developed a common creative template so that anyone, be they in California or Kansas, could see a digital billboard with an Amber Alert message and know what it was, immediately.
Common practices were developed, following the model in Wisconsin, where OAAA members agreed to donate time on their digital billboards to Amber Alert exclusively for two hours after an Alert is issued - the two hours when it could do the most good. OAAA members further promised to keep those Alerts in rotation for 48 more hours or until the Alert was resolved.
On June 8, 2008, the system went live with a nationwide test. Since that time, OAAA has processed almost 350 Alerts through the system. OAAA members across the country have gone above and beyond their agreements, in some cases keeping the image of an abducted child on their signs, free of charge, for weeks in the hopes of reaching someone who can provide a vital clue to law enforcement.
The outdoor advertising industry is rooted deeply in the communities we serve and is not just proud, but thankful, to be part of the Amber Alert system and to work hand in hand with law enforcement. OAAA believes in the power of the system and the power of our medium to do good, not just for our advertisers, but for our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens.