This week marks the one-year anniversary of a multi-state AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped California teenager. Sixteen-year-old Hannah Anderson was ultimately rescued in the Idaho backcountry. Her captor was shot to death by a federal agent. This is just one of the nearly 700 cases where the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe return of a child. But the emergency system has its limitations.

The recent case of two missing children from Washington has raised fresh questions about the Amber Alert system. The brother and sister from Pierce County were located and are safe, but their disappearance did not trigger an Amber Alert.

The siblings were allegedly taken by their mother who has supervised visitation rights, but not custody. Family members reported the mother might be suicidal. Police considered the children endangered and in the past might have issued an Amber Alert that would have flashed across TV screens, radios, cell phones and highway billboards.

Amber Alert website

Update at 5:30 p.m. PT: 

Federal and western law enforcement agencies are scouring the southern portion of Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area for a missing California teenager. The car belonging the teen’s suspected abductor was found at a remote trailhead.

Cell phones along the west coast lit up yesterday and today with an AMBER alert for two missing California children. Authorities say the suspected abductor may be headed to Canada or to Texas. Many people in the Northwest had never seen an AMBER alert pop up on their phones before.