Silver Alert measure signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: April 17, 2009 at 9:14 am •  Published: April 17, 2009
A statewide system to alert authorities if a senior citizen or a person with dementia is missing will be in place later this year.

Gov. Brad Henry signed legislation Thursday that establishes a Silver Alert program to help families locate elderly loved ones who are reported missing. An additional provision of House Bill 2030 also allows the Silver Alert to be activated after the disappearance of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or similar health issues, said House Speaker Pro Tempore Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, House author of the measure.

Henry said the law directs the state Public Safety Department to work with broadcasters and agencies to establish a system patterned on the Amber Alerts that help find missing children.

"By working to quickly locate lost seniors with the help of Silver Alert, we can help prevent injuries and save lives,” Henry said.

The law takes effect Nov. 1.

The idea of a Silver Alert came from a small group of volunteers in Shawnee, said Dorothy Cassel, a past president of the Silver-Haired Legislature, an advocacy group for seniors. The volunteers turned the plan over to the Silver-Haired Legislature, who in turn pressed lawmakers.

Cassel, of El Reno, said a Silver Alert would have helped in finding her uncle when he left a nursing home in his pajamas one night in 1963. He was found frozen several days later in a field.

"This could have been anyone’s uncle or anyone’s dad,” she said. "I hope we never have to face that again in the future.”

The Silver Alert, just as the Amber Alert does, will use television, radio and other forms of communication to alert the public of a missing senior and seek information to help locate the person.

Editor's note: Dorothy Cassel, a past president of the Silver-Haired Legislature, an advocacy group for seniors was misidentified as Nancy Cassel.