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A parent's nightmare spawns a system keeping Utah kids safe

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Government officials put Utah's Amber Alert system to the test test today, keeping a Utah family's tragic story alive.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Government officials put Utah's Amber Alert system to the test test today, keeping a Utah family's tragic story alive.

Twice a year officials test the Amber Alert system to make sure you know if a child is abducted.

"If something went wrong we wouldn't find out until an actual Amber Alert went out so we decided early on to have a test twice a year to make sure the plan is working," Paul Murphy said.

Murphy is the state's Amber Alert Coordinator.  He said right now, you can get an Amber Alert almost anywhere including at home, at work, on your cell phone, and even on facebook.  Murphy credits that to a drop in abductions across the state.

"People know that if they take someone they're gonna get caught quickly," he said.

That is Elaine Simmons goal because she has a dog in the fight.  Today marks the 31st anniversary of the day her three-year-old daughter Rachael Runyan was kidnapped and murdered.

"It's a marker, an anniversary," she said.  "It's been 31 years ago today and it just stabs at your heart a bit harder than any other day."

Rachael was playing at a Sunset City park when she was abducted.  Later, officers found her dead in Morgan canyon.  Soon afterward, her brokenhearted mother went to work.

"It's given me a mission to save other children," she said.   "I didn't want it to happen to me, it was a horrible experience and yet it was a nightmare that we were living through and it wouldn't go away so I decided to put all my efforts into finding my daughter."

For that reason, Simmons helped develop the Rachael Alert in 2002.  A year later it was adopted by all 50 states as the Amber Alert, bringing at least 700 children home since its inception nationwide.

"Maybe I played a small part in that child's life and so that is rewarding," she said.

Even though Simmons' daughter will never come home, she said she'll always make an effort to keep kids safe.  She has vowed to do it for Rachael.

"It's hard to relive and remember, but I still love her, I still miss her and I do it to honor her," she said.

State officials encourage parents to talk to their children about staying safe and avoiding strangers.  They also encourage parents to sign up for the Law Enforcement Alerting Portal here.  Parents can also get Amber Alerts on by liking the state's page on facebook.   For more information on how the Amber Alert system works click here









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