A Silver Alert is a public notification system in the United States to broadcast information about missing persons – especially senior citizens with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities – in order to aid in locating them.
Silver Alerts use a wide array of media outlets – such as commercial radio stations, television stations, and cable television – to broadcast information about missing persons. In some states (specifically Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, California, Texas, and Wisconsin), Silver Alerts also use variable-message signs on roadways to alert motorists to be on the lookout for missing seniors. In cases in which a missing person is believed to be missing on foot, Silver Alerts have used Reverse 911 or other emergency notification systems to notify nearby residents of the neighborhood surrounding the missing person's last known location. Silver alerts can also be used for children who are missing without being in danger or abducted.
Supporters of Silver Alert point to the U.S.A's growing elderly population as a reason to support new programs to locate missing seniors. Approximately six in ten dementia victims will wander off at least once. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering seniors with dementia suffer serious injury or death.
Activation criteria for Silver Alerts vary from state to state. Some states limit Silver Alerts to persons over the age of 65 who have been medically diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or a mental disability. Other states expand Silver Alert to include all children and adults with mental or developmental disabilities. In general, the decision to issue a Silver Alert is made by the law enforcement agency investigating the report of a missing person. Public information in a Silver Alert usually consists of the name and description of the missing person and a description of the missing person's vehicle and license plate number, e.g. David Smith GRN 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada FL LIC 989 ARN.
In December 2005, Oklahoma state Representative Fred Perry (R-Tulsa) announced his intention to introduce an "AMBER Alert for seniors", which he dubbed "Silver Alert." In March 2006, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed H.R. 1075, a resolution calling for a Silver Alert system to find missing seniors. In response to this non-binding resolution, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety added Silver Alert notifications to the statewide alerts sent to law enforcement agencies and the media for rapid distribution. In April 2009, Governor Brad Henry signed legislation permanently establishing the Silver Alert program.
In Georgia, public efforts to locate missing seniors increased following the April 2004 disappearance of Mattie Moore, a 68-year-old Atlanta resident with Alzheimer's disease. Eight months after Moore's disappearance, her body was found 500 yards (460 m) from her home. The City of Atlanta created "Mattie's Call" to coordinate and support Metro Atlanta law enforcement, emergency management and broadcasters to issue an urgent bulletin in missing persons cases involving persons with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and other mental disabilities. Legislation to create a statewide Mattie's Call program was enacted in April 2006.
In Florida, Mary Zelter, an 86-year-old resident of Largo, drove away from her assisted-living facility on February 26, 2008, and never returned. Her body was found a week later 10 miles (16 km) away in the Intracoastal Waterway near a Clearwater boat ramp. Her submerged car was nearby. This tragedy prompted Pinellas County officials to create a Silver Alert pilot program that later grew into a statewide initiative.
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have Silver Alert or similar programs targeting missing seniors. citation needed][
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have missing persons recovery programs that are formally called "Silver Alert":
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Additionally, nine states have programs to help locate missing seniors that are not officially called "Silver Alert" but contain criteria similar to existing Silver Alert programs:
- Alabama – Missing Senior Alert
- Colorado, Missing Senior Citizen Alert
- Georgia – Mattie's Call
- Kentucky – Golden Alert
- Michigan – Mozelle Senior or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert Act
- New Hampshire – Missing Senior Citizen Alert
- New York – Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert 
- Ohio – Missing Adult Alert
- Virginia – Senior Alert
Plus, nine states have missing-persons alert systems with broader criteria than conventional Silver Alert programs. These missing-person alerts apply to larger categories of endangered persons, or apply to all missing people, regardless of age or impairment:
- Delaware, Gold Alert
- Minnesota – Brandon's Law
- Missouri – Endangered Person Advisory
- Montana – Missing and Endangered Persons Advisory
- Nebraska – Endangered Missing Advisory
- Pennsylvania – Missing and Endangered Person Advisory
- South Dakota – Endangered Persons Advisory
- Utah – Endangered Person Advisory
- Wyoming – Endangered Person Advisory
In May 2008, Representative Lloyd Doggett introduced the National Silver Alert Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill to encourage, enhance, and integrate Silver Alert plans throughout the United States. Similar legislation was filed by Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Sue Myrick (R-NC). The three bills were combined into a single bill, H.R. 6064. The bill was passed by the House in September 2008 by a voice vote, but the 110th Congress adjourned before it could be considered in the U.S. Senate.
The National Silver Alert Act was re-introduced in the 111th Congress as H.R. 632. It was passed by the House of Representatives on February 11, 2009, on a voice vote. Companion legislation (S.557) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI).
The National Silver Alert Act has been endorsed by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA), Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, Elder Justice Coalition, National Silver Haired Congress, the National Association of Police Organizations and the National Sheriffs' Association.
Critics of Silver Alert have raised concerns that the proliferation of color-coded alerts will reduce their importance, risking that alerts would be ignored as a "wolf cry". For example, Texas has created an Amber Alert, Silver Alert and Blue Alert (issued to locate an assailant in the event a law enforcement officer is killed or injured.) In New York, Governor George Pataki vetoed Silver Alert legislation in 2003, citing his concern that it would weaken the Amber Alert system and make the alerts too common. In the absence of state-level legislation, local Silver Alert programs have been enacted by New York City and five New York counties: Rockland, Suffolk, Nassau, Niagara and Erie.
Some critics have raised concerns about the cost of implementing the Silver Alert program on a nationwide basis. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that implementation of the National Silver Alert Act would cost $59 million over a five-year period. During the House debate on the cost Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) noted that states with Silver Alerts have reported nominal costs associated with operating the system, since they are able to utilize existing Amber Alert infrastructure to issue Silver Alerts.
Because the implementation of Silver Alert systems vary from state to state, there are no national statistics for the retrieval rates resulting from Silver Alerts. However, among states that publicly release statistics, retrieval rates indicate a high level of success. For example, In North Carolina, 128 Silver Alerts were issued in 2008. Of these, 118 seniors were safely recovered.
In Georgia, Mattie's Call garnered a safe return for 70 of the 71 calls issued between its inception in 2006 and January 2009.
In Texas, the Silver Alert system was invoked 52 times in the first year following its inception in September 2007. Of these alerts, 48 of the missing seniors were located safely, and 13 of these recoveries were directly attributable to Silver Alert.
In Florida, 136 Silver Alerts were issued in its first year (2008–2009), leading to 131 safe recoveries. 19 of these recoveries were directly attributable to Silver Alert. Over two years, 227 Silver Alerts have been issued in Florida – with 220 seniors located safely, and 36 of those recoveries attributed directly to the Silver Alert. Over three years, 377 Silver Alerts have been issued in Florida, with 367 seniors located safely, and 51 of those recoveries attributed directly to the Silver Alert.
In Wisconsin, 18 Silver Alerts were issued in the first 5 months of the program, out of which 15 of missing seniors were found and safely returned home.
- Johnson, Kirk (May 4, 2010). "More with Dementia Wander from Home". The New York Times.
- "Wandering". Alzheimer's Association.
Six in 10 people with dementia will wander [Three out of five people with Alzheimer's Disease will wander]
- Holleyman, Summer (December 6, 2005). "OK-Representative plans 'Silver Alert' system for finding missing seniors". iCapitol.net. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011.
- Coppernoll, Carrie (March 24, 2008). "Senior advocates aim to take alerts national". Daily Oklahoman.
- "The Safety Signal" (PDF). Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. October 2007.
- "Gov. Henry Signs Silver Alert Law, Program to Aid Missing Seniors Modeled after Amber Alert". Office of Governor Brad Henry. April 16, 2009. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
- "Atlantans to mark the 5th Anniversary of the disappearance of Mrs. Mattie Moore". City of Atlanta Daybook. April 20, 2009. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009.
- "Ordinance 04-0-1101, Authorizing the Establishment of Mattie's Call" (PDF). Atlanta City Council. June 24, 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2006.
- "House Bill 728,". Georgia General Assembly, Enacted April 28, 2006. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012.
- "Florida's Silver Alert spurs a national plan". St. Petersburg Times. February 24, 2009. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
- "Governor Signs Silver Alert Legislation". Office of Governor Sean Parnell. July 10, 2013. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014.
- "Brewer gives nod to new 'Silver Alert' system for elderly". Associated Press. April 25, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014.
- "Governor Beebe Announces New Silver Alert Program,". April 6, 2009. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009.
- "What is a Silver Alert?". California Highway Patrol. Archived from the original on June 9, 2013.
- "Connecticut Silver Alert System". United Way of Connecticut.
- "District of Columbia Silver Alert Program Announced!". Maryland D.C. Delaware Broadcasters Association.
- "FHP Locates Silver Alert Subject". Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Archived from the original on May 1, 2009.
- "New law takes effect to help find missing adults". Chicago Tribune. December 31, 2009.
- "Missing Persons Alerts Get New Silver Lining". Greensburg Daily News. July 1, 2009. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013.
- "Kansas Silver Alert Protocol" (PDF). Attorney General of Kansas.
- "Governor Jindal Signs Bills Into Law". Office of Governor Bobby Jindal. July 3, 2008.
- "Baldacci Signs "Silver Alert" Bill". Maine Public Broadcasting Network. April 29, 2010.
- "Maryland's Silver Alert Program". Maryland State Police. Archived from the original on August 3, 2013.
- Judson, Jen (August 11, 2010). "Gov. Patrick signs Silver Alert bill". Waltham Daily News Tribune. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012.
- "New Mississippi law sets alerts for missing elderly". Jackson Clarion-Ledger. March 25, 2010.
- Fryman, Jessica (June 4, 2011). "New alert system helps find lost elders". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Lu, Adrienne (December 24, 2009). "N. J. adopts alert system for missing seniors, others". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- "Governor Susana Martinez Signs Silver Alert Legislation, Allowing DPS to Issue Alerts for Missing Seniors" (PDF). State of New Mexico, Office of the Governor. April 1, 2013.
- "The Silver Alert Program". North Carolina Department of Crime Control & Public Safety. Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. Retrieved June 5, 2010.
- "Silver Alert". North Dakota Highway Patrol.
- McNutt, Michael (April 17, 2009). "Silver Alert measure signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry". Daily Oklahoman.
- McAlice Currie, Carol (March 5, 2014). "Governor signs 'Silver Alert' bill". Salem Statesman-Journal.
- "Rhode Island Title 42, Chapter 28". Rhode Island General Assembly.
- "Silver Alert going forward in South Carolina". WIS-TV. September 23, 2008.
- "Alert system for missing seniors now law; next comes implementation". WBIR. October 15, 2009.
- "Silver Alert Activation Instructions" (PDF). Texas Department of Public Safety.[permanent dead link]
- Camden, Jim (June 11, 2015). "New Washington law will allow Silver Alerts for missing seniors". Spokane Spokesman-Review.
- Brown, Keri (August 3, 2009). "Silver Alert helps find missing seniors". West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
- "Investing in Wisconsin's Communities: Governor Scott Walker Signs Silver Alert Public Safety Legislation". Office of Governor Scott Walker. April 11, 2014.
- "Alabama Missing Senior Alert". Alabama Department of Public Safety. Archived from the original on March 24, 2010.
- "Colorado Missing Senior Citizen Alert". Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
- "Mattie's Call". Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
- "Kentucky Golden Alert Law". Seniors Digest. October 1, 2008. Archived from the original on February 22, 2013.
- Galligan, Kathleen (September 2, 2012). "New law requires police to act immediately when an older person is reported missing". Detroit Free Press.
- "Missing Senior Citizen Alert Program". N.H. RSA 106-J:4.
- "Governor Cuomo Signs Law to Create Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert System". Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo. July 25, 2011. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011.
- Cavallaro, Emanuel (June 21, 2008). "Ohio implements Amber Alert for missing adults". Springfield News-Sun. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008.
- "Virginia Senior Alert". Virginia State Police.
- "11 Delaware Code Annotated §§ 8580-8583".
- Von Sternberg, Bob (May 8, 2009). "Adults added to missing children's law". Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
- "About the Endangered Person Advisory". Missouri State Highway Patrol.
- "Missing and Endangered Person Advisory". Montana Department of Justice. Archived from the original on February 10, 2010.
- "Endangered Missing Advisory". Nebraska State Patrol.
- "Amber Alert System for Vulnerable Adults". WDUQ-FM. November 25, 2010.
- "Missing and Endangered Person Advisory". South Dakota Endangered Persons Advisory. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008.
- "Endangered Person Advisory". Utah Department of Public Safety. Archived from the original on February 11, 2010.
- "Wyoming announces new program to help find people". KPVI. October 23, 2009. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011.
- "Rep. Bilirakis Introduces Bill Creating Silver Alert Grant Program". Office of Rep. Gus Bilirakis. April 24, 2008.
- "Myrick introduces Kristen's Act Reauthorization of 2005". Office of U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick. May 4, 2005.
- "H.R. 6064". THOMAS Legislative Database, Library of Congress.
- "H.R. 632". THOMAS Legislative Database, Library of Congress.
- "Martinez Introduces 'Silver Alert' System to Help Locate Missing Persons". Office of Senator Mel Martinez. September 25, 2008. Archived from the original on June 25, 2009.
- "S. 1814". United States Legislative Information, Library of Congress. December 12, 2013.
- "Manchin, Rockefeller, Coons, Schumer, McCaskill, Klobuchar Introduce Silver Alert Bill to Help Locate Missing Seniors". Office of Senator Joe Manchin. December 17, 2013. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
- "AMBER Alert". Texas Department of Public Safety. Archived from the original on July 5, 2009.
- Friedman, Emily (December 23, 2008). "Silver Alerts Help Find Disoriented Elderly". ABC News.
- "New Silver Alert Law Enhances Public Notification System to Aid Search for Missing Seniors" (PDF). New York City Department of Aging. October 6, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 17, 2010.
- "'Silver Alert' System to Safeguard Seniors". New City Patch. May 3, 2010.
- "Suffolk Executive Levy Signs "Silver Alert System" Initiative". Suffolk County Government. March 12, 2009. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011.
- "Nassau OKs Silver Alert system for elderly wanderers". Newsday (New York). August 10, 2009.
- "Sheriff unveils Silver Alert system for missing seniors". Buffalo News. August 21, 2010.
- "Silver Alerts coming to Erie County". Buffalo News. November 5, 2010.
- "Cost Estimate, H.R. 6064, National Silver Alert Act" (PDF). Congressional Budget Office. September 4, 2008.
- "Congressional Record". U.S. House of Representatives. February 10, 2009. p. H1126.
- "Silver Alert Activations Summary". North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. March 4, 2009. Archived from the original on July 24, 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2009.
- Toone, Stephanie (January 10, 2009). "System successful in finding lost adults". Augusta Chronicle.
- "Congressional Record". U.S. House of Representatives. September 15, 2008. p. H8081.
- "136 Silver Alerts issued in system's 1st year". Miami Herald. December 25, 2009.
- "Silver Alert Monthly Report, November 2009". Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Archived from the original on February 8, 2010.
- "Florida Celebrates Two Year Anniversary Of Silver Alert Program". TheGovMonitor.com. October 8, 2010. Archived from the original on October 9, 2010.
- "Three Year Anniversary Of Florida's Silver Alert Plan". wtxl.com. October 7, 2011. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012.
- "Five Months After Launch, Officials Say Statewide "Silver Alert" Program Has Been a Success". Fox 6 News. January 14, 2015.