3.1 Phase One - The First Six Hours
Start at the Beginning - The Site the Missing Child was Last
- Verify that the missing child's family has called 911.
- Saturate the neighborhood and a five mile radius of the site
last seen with flyers immediately. Flyers are always appropriate,
no matter what the situation (Section
- Determine the type of situation you are faced with: lost, runaway,
parental conflict, abduction, etc. Respond appropriately.
- Contact friends, teachers, clergy, and law enforcement with the
goal of establishing the child's character, emotional state, and,
if necessary, vouching for the child.
- The family of the missing child should be encouraged to seek
guidance from professional child-search organizations (Section
on Missing Child Organizations).
- Ensure that the missing child's clothing is not disturbed or
removed from the site last seen or the home. It is absolutely imperative
that the scent be preserved for use by canine search teams (Section
on Special Search Methods and Tasks).
- The missing child's room and belongings must be left undisturbed
until the child is recovered or the investigation is concluded. This
includes items that may have the child's fingerprints, and, for DNA
evidence, their hair and tooth brushes, and unwashed undergarments.
- Preserve the site last seen for future investigation.
- Familiarize key personnel with the site last seen and surrounding
- Secure maps of the site last seen and immediate area as soon
as possible (Section
- Take photographs of the site last seen and surrounding area.
This will help with briefings later on.
- Fly the area with a helicopter and take aerial photos. This view
will help in organizing the search, and will give you a feel for
the overall dynamics of the area.
- Mobilize the community. Contact the leadership of organizations
such as local Scout groups, PTO, Churches, Chamber of Commerce, fraternal
and professional groups, especially those that the missing child's
family may be associated with. These groups will be a source for
Recovery Center volunteers. All volunteers should be at least 18
- Arrange for any specialized search teams and equipment as soon
as possible. These tools are most valuable in the first hours of
the search: dogs, helicopters, horses, etc.
- Commence search operations as soon as possible. Begin at the
beginning - the site last seen. Never assume that any area searched
prior to Recovery Center involvement has been properly and thoroughly
- Start a concentric search from site last seen. Divide the area
within a radius of 1.5 miles of the site last seen into sectors that
can be covered by 20 person teams in periods of 3-6 hours.
- Simultaneously, search major roads and highways leading to and
from the site last seen, with emphasis on those leading to remote
- Search all secondary thoroughfares such as waterways, railroad
tracks, jogging paths, etc.
- Consider establishing roadchecks on roads entering and leaving
the area. Coordinate with law enforcement.
- Identify any unusual traffic flow or dynamics in the area of
the site last seen that might yield clues. (Example: construction
sites, high traffic, migrant workers, etc.)
- Identify and document unusual individuals who become involved
early in the search effort. This monitoring will continue throughout
the recovery operation.
- Document all search activities for future reference. Keep all
records, no matter how insignificant they may appear to be, to give
to the Historian (Section