SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC/WAFB) - It's one of a parent's worst nightmares, you turn around and your child is gone. According to the FBI, a child goes missing every 40 seconds.
Police say the first thing parents should do in this heart-stopping situation is remain calm, as hard as it may be to accept. According to Amber Alert statistics, the first three hours are crucial and it could take nearly two hours to gather information from a panicked parent.
Here's the scenario: It's just another outing with the kids, getting out of the house to do a little shopping. Your mind is racing with all the things you need. You think your two children are right by your side, but suddenly, you realize one of them is gone. Think fast, what are you going to do?
"As hard as it is, you want to make sure you try not to panic because as soon as you panic, you take yourself out of the game," said Officer Michael Akers with the Richmond Hill (GA) Police Department.
Akers said when you start panicking, you don't think as clearly and your details become fuzzy. Remain calm and alert employees at the store.
"If you're in a department store, a lot things that they've got implemented now is something called 'Code Adam,'" Akers explained.
Code Adam is a missing child safety program. Employees will lockdown the store so no one can go in or out while they search. It was started in memory of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a department store in 1981 and later found murdered.
"If you notice your child has gone missing, you would notify an attendant and give a description as to what the child is wearing," Akers added.
He also said your child's shoes are one of the most important features to remember.
"A lot of times, criminals can change the hair color of a child very quickly by taking them to the bathroom and dying their hair. They can change the clothing by grabbing clothes off the rack, but it's really hard to change a child's shoes," Akers said.
He recommends always taking a picture of your children before you go anywhere. This way, you have a photo of them in exactly what they are wearing. He also said educate your children on what to do if they get separated from you.
"Teach your children to find someone who works at the store and that way they can help find their parents," Akers said.
There are many other ways parents can help protect their children, especially if you're at big functions with large crowds.
"Sometimes a child will wander off and they will see a game somewhere or they will see a ride somewhere and they will just simply not follow along with mom and dad, who are doing their best to try and pay attention to them," Akers added.
If you aren't able to locate your child within 10 minutes of notifying store employees or perhaps a security guard, Akers said that's when you need to call police.