Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Social Media and Missing Persons


It probably comes as no surprise that the first 48 hours when someone disappears, is the most crucial. But, have you ever thought about what you would do if your child or another family member went missing? Recently I received a phone call from the local police wanting to know if one of my boy's friends was staying at our house for the night. His mother did not have our phone number and he had been missing for 24 hrs.

Through Facebook and appealing to friends of friends the boys were able to track down their friend, who had had an argument with his mum, and was staying at his girlfriend's house. Now, that girlfriend's mother probably never knew that this boy's mum did not know where he was. I know because the boys have done it to me too - not staying at girlfriend's of course, but staying at other kid's houses. Needless to say we now have a policy that I have to meet the parents (some of them actually think this is odd?) and talk to them on the phone to ensure the boys are there. Anyway I am now sidetracking....

The reason for this post is to provide some information which I gained from a link mentioned in our local paperMissing Persons Guide Australia offers some really practical advice on where to start if someone you love goes missing. You can even create a Missing Persons Poster - hopefully you would never need one. They suggest that most people are found in the first 48 hours but damned if I would wait that long before doing anything. This is a summary of the suggested steps to take:

  • Gather details (physical description, circumstances)
  • Report to the police (Missing Person Details Form)
  • Create poster and distribute 
  • Contact Australian Missing Persons Register (AMPR - Facebook)
  • Spread the word - doorknock, email etc
Before doing all of the above, I would obviously try and locate my boys the old-fashioned way - by doing a ring around. After ringing around with no result I would put a post on Facebook. I have seen them many times on our Gympie Buy and Sell pages (these have thousand of members) looking for a missing teen and encouraging people to share. To date, the child always gets found, so I think this is really effective.  I have liked the Australian Missing Persons Register Facebook page...you never know when you may spot someone who is missing.

I found the poster template on this site a little primitive and it saves as a PDF which I have no idea how to share to Facebook. Did you know that your local Officeworks (who have a charity fund) or Courthouse will print your Missing Posters for free? Handy information to know.

First Week
  • Create Facebook page
  • Create Twitter account
  • Store information centrally eg. drop box
  • Send a media release
  • Contact relevant people and organisations
I would think that if your loved one is missing for more than a few days then all of the above would be handled by the Police, to ensure that all bases are covered. I sure don't want to lose someone for me to find out whether that is the case.

I guess if your child was missing you would automatically assume the worst ie. that they may have been abducted. I certainly would. I am wondering if you know about the awesome app available on the Daniel Morecombe Foundation website. It is called the Help Me App and everyone should have it on their phone.

"The 'Help Me' button sounds a warning and allows you to send off an SMS text to two (2) nominated safety numbers, as part of your Trusted Safety Network. Included in the text are GPS co-ordinates from where the text was sent, so the sender can be located or a last known place of contact is indicated. It also provides a range of helpful resources and assistance that is designed to educate kids and parents on how to keep safe plus keep them up to date on the latest news! It offers safety and assistance for children and reassurance for parents and adults."

For a 99c donation to the Morecombe Foundation it is well worth it! The alarm itself may be enough to scare a predator off.

A serious topic I know, considering I have talked a lot about floods, bushfires and cybersafety lately, I don't mean to be so serious...but when I see something interesting and learn something I didn't know before then I figure others may not know too.

Have you ever had a loved one go missing? What would you do first? (Besides panic!)

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