Q: I noticed a flashing “Silver Alert” bulletin while driving recently. What is that?

A: Since the program’s inception in 2008, Florida’s Silver Alert program has been directly responsible for 268 recoveries of missing senior citizens. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) notes that Silver Alerts are used when the missing persons are “suffering from an irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties.” Florida Silver Alerts are first activated by law enforcement agencies on a local basis, in an effort to locate the person.

Criteria for issuing a Silver Alert

-The person must be 60 years or older.

-Law enforcement must determine that highway dynamic message signs may be the only possible way to rescue them.

-The person must have an irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties ie: Alzheimers disease or other dementia (verified by law enforcement).

Local or regional activation

According to the Florida Silver Alert plan, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Local law enforcement must conduct a preliminary investigation and conclude the disappearance poses a credible threat to the person’s welfare and safety.
  2. Local law enforcement must enter the missing person into the Florida Crime Information Center and issue a BOLO (Be on the Lookout).
  3. Local law enforcement must contact media outlets in the area and/or surrounding jurisdictions.

Local agencies may have additional requirements for activation. If the senior is still not located, the local agency may request the statewide activation of highway dynamic message signs –a State Silver Alert. 

State Silver Alert

In addition to the criteria for the local Silver Alert, the person considered in danger must have been traveling by motor vehicle at the time of their disappearance –with an identified license plate number or other vehicle information. The FDLE then works with the local agency to determine all the applicable areas for activation and prepares information for public distribution.

Only law enforcement agencies can request the activation of a Silver Alert. If you need to report a missing person, do this in person at your local police or sheriff’s department. In addition to a complete and specific description, provide a recent photo. After filing, request the case number, the assigned officer’s name and direct contact information. At that time, you may also call Florida’s Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse at 1-888-FL-MISSING.

When a senior goes missing, the experience can be frightening for the individual and their family. The Florida Silver Alert helps ensure the speediest return possible, by enlisting the aid of all who see it.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.