What is a Code Adam?

Have you ever seen this sign before?

Code_AdamYou may have spotted it displayed on the doors of grocery stories, gas stations and restaurants. It is usually small and off to the side, likely unnoticed by most people.

I, however, always notice it. Unless you’re reading The Bible, or watching the credits of Happy Gilmore, you don’t see the word Adam too often. That is, unless you see it multiple times per day in your email signature. My eyes are trained to spot the word “Adam.”

When I started noticing Code Adam at stores, I thought that maybe I was part of a Jason Bourne-like operation and they were trying to send me a secret message. I kept waiting for a dude in a trench coat to hand me an envelope that would disintegrate once I finished reading it.

Unfortunately, I never received one.

So my search for the meaning of Code Adam continues…until today’s Wonder Why Wednesday.

What is a Code Adam?

Code Adam is a missing child safety program named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of John Walsh (the host of Fox’s America’s Most Wanted). In 1981, Adam was abducted in Florida from a Sears department store. His body was never recovered.

In 1994, Wal-Mart created Code Adam and in 2003, legislation enacted by Congress began mandating that all federal office buildings employ the program. Employees at these businesses are trained to take the following six steps according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children:

  1. If a visitor reports a child is missing, a detailed description of the child and what he or she is wearing is obtained. Additionally, all exterior access to the building is locked and monitored; anyone approaching a door is turned away.
  2. The employee goes to the nearest in-house telephone and pages Code Adam, describing the child’s physical features and clothing. As designated employees monitor front entrances, other employees begin looking for the child.
  3. If the child is not found within 10 minutes, law enforcement is called.
  4. If the child is found and appears to have been lost and unharmed, the child is reunited with the searching family member.
  5. If the child is found accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian, reasonable efforts to delay their departure will be used without putting the child, staff, or visitors at risk. Law enforcement will be notified and given details about the person accompanying the child.
  6. The Code Adam page will be canceled after the child is found or law enforcement arrives.
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