What To Do When A Family Member Goes Missing


If your loved one is lost, call 911.


It can be extremely stressful when a family member who wanders goes missing. The following overviews help prepare caregivers and family members for questions being asked by an emergency dispatcher and/or law enforcement officers responding to this type of call.


What the 911 Operator will ask:

Based upon the answers to the questions below, the 911 Operator may ask additional questions.

What address is the person missing from?

What time was the person last seen?

What is the name and age of the person missing?

What is the physical description of the person? What are the height, weight, hair color and eye color, as well as tattoos or other defining physical characteristics?

What clothing was the person wearing when they went missing?

Did the person wander away on foot?

Did the person wander away in a vehicle when they went missing? If so, what was the make, model, color, and license plate of the vehicle?

In what direction did they go?

Where might they have gone?

Do they have a phone or a tracking device on them? If so, what is it?

Does the person have any medical conditions? If so, what are they?

Does the person take any medications?

Are any of the medications time sensitive?

What the responding law enforcement officer will ask:

The responding law enforcement officer may begin by asking questions to clarify responses given to the 911 Operator when the person was first reported as missing.

If the person has a phone or tracking device, the officer would start the pinging or tracking process if the family member or caretaker hasn’t already done so.

Do you have a current photo of the missing person? If you do, ensure that it is a current photo.

Are there triggers for the individual, both pros and cons?

What are some triggering phrases or people to the individual?

How does the individual react to law enforcement or caretakers?

How does the individual react to males or females?

How does the individual react to ambulances, sirens, emergency lights or loud noises?

Is the person verbal or non-verbal (could be asked during 911 call) and what is their cognitive level of communication?

Does the person have decision-making capacity? Is the person independent, functioning or reliant?

If there is a known medical condition(s), are they on medications?

Do they have the medications with them?

Are the medications time sensitive, like Insulin?

Has the individual been drinking or using drugs?

Was the person upset, angry, or experiencing a medical crisis?

If yes, are they a risk to harm themselves or others?

Is the individual violent? Do they have outbursts?

If yes, are they physical or verbal?

What are familiar routes or places they may go? Please provide names, addresses and phone numbers.

What are past places they have lived and they might try to go? Do they have family or friends in the area?


Also consider these environmental elements when determining a proper sense of urgency:

Weather conditions:

Weather conditions can greatly impact the search for a person who has wandered away from safety. Some examples include very high or low temperatures and heavy rain or snow. Nighttime can also increase the urgency of the search for a person who has wandered.

Environmental elements:

The area surrounding the person who wandered will also have an impact on the urgency of the search. If a waterway such as an irrigation ditch, stream or river is nearby, consider that hazard in the search. Roads and railways may also impact the urgency of the search.