The horrible case of a child abduction in Georgia early this morning reminds us that after a child kidnapping, the first steps you take can be crucial.
In the Georgia case, two gunmen broke into a home near Atlanta about 2 a.m., shot the family's dog, and demanded jewelry and money. But with no valuables in the home, the robbers instead abducted 14-year-old Ayvani Hope Perez, NBC News reports. A nationwide Amber Alert has been issued.
A child abduction is every parent's worst nightmare, but there are some critical first steps you can take if it does happen to you. These include:
Staying calm. Take a deep breath, and try to remain as calm as you can. This will help to ensure that you act more efficiently. It's natural to want to dive into full-blown panic mode, but this can sometimes make the situation worse.
Calling 911. Alert the police immediately, once you've confirmed that your child is missing. Make sure your report includes as much accuracy and detail as possible. The police know what to do, and will have access to sex offender registries and other databases at their disposal. With your accurate recount of the situation, they can then act in a timely manner and start pursuing the search right away.
Searching your home. If you are at home when you suspect that your child is missing, search your home thoroughly. Make sure that you check all closets, under the bed, and any other spots where a child can fit. If this doesn't turn up your child who may just be playing with you, it will also help you to uncover the details necessary to report to your respective law enforcement agency when you call them.
Searching the store and alerting a manager. If you are at a store when your child goes missing, scour the premises first to make sure that your child is not just lost within the building. Then, alert the store manager who can issue a "Code Adam" to alert employees about a missing child. Typical store procedures in such cases include guarding the exits and even reviewing security footage that might turn up relevant information.
Having law enforcement issue an AMBER Alert. The AMBER Alert system is meant to quickly and widely disseminate information about child abductions so that everyone in the vicinity can be on the lookout. Sending out an AMBER Alert requires the help of police to confirm there is an abduction and to perform other necessary steps. However, once it is sent out, the alert can be in the form of an emergency message on highway signs, and even alerts sent via cell phone.