9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Standards for Handling Reports of Missing and Sexually Exploited Children Are Needed at 9-1-1 Communications Centers Nationwide

Taken from Emergency Communications Professional Magazine May/June 2010
Written by Ernie Allen, co-founder of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (Alexandria, VA) and has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the private non-profit organization since 1989. Under his leadership, more than 145,000 children have been recovered and the organization has increased its recovery rate from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today. Ernie has brought technology and innovation to the Center, including age progression and forensic imaging of long-term missing children, a 24-hour missing children hotline and training for more than 269,000 law enforcement officers. He established the CyberTipline, the 9-1-1 for the Internet, which has resulted in thousands of successful prosecutions.

The numbers of children reported missing or sexually exploited each year are overwhelming. According to Justice Department research, nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. Another serious threat is child sexual exploitation. Leading researchers report that one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually victimized in some way before they reach the age of 18, and just one in three reports it. Finally, the advent of the Internet has been a blessing and a curse. While it has provided unprecedented and vast educational and informational resources to children, it has also posed extreme dangers for children as a result of pedophiles and others who use the Internet to prey upon children.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has helped in the recovery of more than 145,600 missing children, raising its recovery rate from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today. NCMEC has handled more than 800,000 reports of child sexual exploitations since 1998 - 120,000 in 2009 alone - and has reviewed and analyzed 31 million child pornography images and videos since 2003 in order to identify and rescue these children. Rescuing America's children required thorough, detailed information and rapid mobilization of police response.
Reports of missing or sexually exploiited children may be among the most difficult, challenging and emotionally charged cases a 9-1-1 communications center will experience. The steps that are taken and the information that is captured can impact whether a child is quickly and safely recovered, can help prevent a life spent recovering from abuse, and could mean the difference between life and death for a child. The information gathered can also impact law enforcement's ability to prosecute those who harm children. As a result, it is important that 9-1-1 communications centers nationwide respond quickly, decisively and in a consistent manner when handling reports of missing children or children who have been sexually exploited.

NCMEC, in partnership with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and AMBER Alert developed new best practices model policy for 9-1-1 communications centers to follow when handling reports of missing children or sexually exploited children. Created in 2007, the new policy, American National Standards Institute (ANSI)standard 1.101.1-2007, is designed to better prepare 9-1-1 communications centers to handle these types of cases. Implementation of the new standard better prepares 9-1-1 communications centers to effectively assess the risk to the child, collect better information sooner about missing children and identify how that information can be used to mobilize a more effective law enforcement response. The standard also instructs on the best way to handle and the specific information that needs to be collected for different types of calls such as those involving family abduction, non-family abduction, runaways, child sexual exploitation and reports of child pornography.
NCMEC is providing technical assistance and training to states interested in inplementing the new ANSI standard in their 9-1-1 communication centers. During 2008 and 2009, more than 1,000 communications center personnel from 43 states attended NCMEC training on the ANSI standard, of which 755 were managers or supervisors and 328 were communications center trainers. Four states have taken a leadership role in adopting and implementing the new ANSI standard on a statewide basis - Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio and Utah. Three other states - Iowa, South Carolina and Texas - are in the process of implementing the standards statewide.

Implementing the ANSI Standard
What is holding up the rest of you? Children are our most precious asset. Communications centers play a critical role in bringing missing children home and protecting children from sexual exploitation. Every 9-1-1 communications center in the nation should adopt and implement the new ANSI standard to ensure reports of missing children or sexually exploited children are handled correctly.
Implementing the new standard on an individual PSAP basis is a slow process. NCMEC's goal is to persuade states to adopt the standard and implement it on a statewide basis. A state's required commitment is modest. States must officially adopt the ANSI standard, provide locations for training, identify the key individuals to be trained and provide help in implementing the standard following public safety answering point (PSAP) training.
An example of the types of partners States are calling upon to help implement the standard statewide include NENA/APCO state presidents, state chiefs and/or sheriff's associations, State 9-1-1 officials, missing children clearinghouses, State Amber Alert Coordinators and State Police. The cost to implement the new standard is minimal, and NCMEC and the other partner agencies are availabe to help PSAPs adopt the ANSI standard and implement it into practice.
A recent Hanover, MA case exemplified how the ANSI standard helped one PSAP protect a child. A mother called 9-1-1 when she could no longer hear her six-year-old daughter outside the apartment complex. The call taker had been trained in how to handle a case of a missing child and immedicately dispatched police to the site to search for the girl. As it turned out, a man assisting the police found the girl shackled in the hallway of an apartment building - she had escaped from the abductor's apartment and was able to tell the police where to find her abductor. The police arrested this man and the little girl was safely returned to her mother. The immediate recognition of a potentially serious problem by the call taker and the prompt response of the Hanover Police Department most likely saved the life of this young child. This is only one of hundreds of examples of the important role 9-1-1 communications centers play when a child is missing. The excellent response in the Hanover case should be the norm in every PSAP.
When children are abducted and murdered, almost 60 percent of those cases begin like this one - from a parent who can't find his or her child. Only 10 percent are initially identified as abductions. Calls regarding missing children need to be investigated until we know the children are safe. Those children who are abducted and murdered die very quickly. We know that 47 percent die within the first hour, 74 percent within the first three hours and 40 percent are dead before they are even reported missing. Time is the enemy in the search for a missing child, and every second is critical.
The fact that a new ANSI standard has been created for 9-1-1 communications centers is a great milestone. However, the standard can only be effective if it is used.
Because not all states have a certification process for 9-1-1 communications center training, a new award was developed to recognize 9-1-1 communications centers that have adopted the ANSI standard and implemented the procedures. A 9-1-1 communications center can become an NCMEC Partner if it demonstrates that the communications center manager has attended NCMEC training, that communications center trainers have attended the NCMEC Train the Trainer course, that all local communications center staff have been trained and that new staff will be trained to follow the ANSI standard. In addition, the communications center must establish a quality assurance process that calls for supervisory review of calls related to missing and sexually exploited children. Upon completion of these requirements, 9-1-1 communications centers are provided with a certificate of achievement that is awarded at national conferences held throughout the year by APCO, NAED, NENA and AMBER Alert. Communications centers are then provided with regular updates.
Becoming an NCMEC partner tells your community that your PSAP cares about children and wants to make sure reports of missing children or children who have been sexually exploited are handled properly and as a priority. Urge your State to act. Help NCMEC implement this vital standard across America.

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