AMERICAN FORK — In an abduction emergency, parents often can't remember if their child has blond hair or brown or the color of their eyes. And precious seconds are lost scrambling to find a recent picture for law enforcement before an Amber Alert can be issued.
"Seconds absolutely count when a child is taken," said Paul Murphy, Amber Alert coordinator for the Attorney General's Office.
And those are seconds that can be shaved off with an Amber Alert Child ID, a credit card-size identifier that keeps the child's vital information in a national database of information accessible only to law enforcement officers.
An Amber Alert is a nationwide notice that goes out over radio and television when a child under 17 is believed to have been abducted and is facing imminent danger.
"Everyone in Utah needs to step forward and help ensure that children come home safely," Murphy said.
Part of that stepping forward means having a child's information instantly available to law enforcement and the media to help in search efforts. Every minute lost decreases the possibility that the child will be found safe.
That's why the American Fork Rotary Club has teamed up with local law enforcement and Mountain America Credit Union to help ensure that every child has his or her own ID card — a program they officially kicked off Thursday at the American Fork branch of the credit union.
"It's good to have something that, in case it does happen, the information is there," said dad Justin Finn, who brought to the credit union 8-year-old Colby, 6-year-old Riley, 3-year-old Jack and Abigail, 2, to get their own IDs, which they flashed around happily like baseball cards.
The first card for any child is free, as are yearly updates for children over 5, and six-month updates for children under 5. If both parents want a card, it's an additional $3.
"We're not trying to make money on this," said Layne Garrett, president of the American Fork Rotary Club. "We want to keep kids safe. And this is used for actual recovery, not identification."
In an emergency, parents can call police and give them the 14-digit number on their child's card. That allows police to get a picture out to the media quickly through an Amber Alert.
If parents lose their child's card or can't find it, they can also tell officers the child's name and birthday and the officer can use that to get information from the national database in New York. The child's name is not on the card, and the information cannot be accessed by anyone except law enforcement.
All work done with Amber Alerts is voluntary and donated by community members. Mountain America Credit Union donated $8,500 to get the computer software, camera and printer to make the cards and encourages other businesses to step up and help them provide this service to more children.