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Finding A Missing Loved One

A Checklist of things you need to do

The 1st 24 Hours

  •  Contact Law Enforcement (LE) and file a missing persons report. Give all information necessary about who/where they were last seen.

  • Document anything missing (clothing, money, personal items) Collect any bank info, important documents and give to LE. Turn over anything that could be used for DNA. Locate the most current photo and give a detailed list of: hair color, height, weight, DOB, distinguishing marks (scars, tattoos, piercings , habits and medications needs if necessary.

  • Ask LE to do a media release to allow the news to share that your loved one is missing.

  • Start a folder/notebook to keep important information. Keep a daily journal with dates, times, contacts, conversations and any and all information that might be important.

  • Make a list of anybody you should call, people that may have seen your loved one, places they may have gone, contact local hospitals, homeless shelters. With HIPPA laws, they do not have to tell you, so ask to speak with your loved one rather than if your loved one is there.

  • Make sure to eat and get some rest.

The 1st 48 Hours

  • Check-in with LE (daily in the beginning/weekly as time goes by) Keep a positive relationship with LE.

  • Contact RSAR to make a poster that can be shared with other SAR teams, and all over social media. Share this poster on Facebook, Twitter & ask your friends & family to share.

  • Designate a person to handle interaction with media and LE.

  • Once LE has completed their search of the home, do your own search, taking photos and searching for clues. Search other areas you think your loved one might be. Report your findings to LE.

  • Find a template online to make your own posters and use the most current photo. Include details like hair color, DOB, Weight, distinguishing marks, and circumstances of disappearance. Do Not include your personal contact information on the flyer (phone #, address, etc). When making copies, ask for a discount at your local print shop. Gather a group to help hang posters, & remember to ask permission before hanging posters, keeping a list of places you hung posters.

  • Make sure to eat and get some rest, lean on a person you can trust. If having trouble sleeping... contact your doctor.

Moving Forward


  • Make sure LE enters your loved one into the NamUs database.

  • Consider offering a reward. Talk to LE and see if they are in support. If Crime Stoppers, set up a bank account for this purpose and start planning a fundraiser.

  • Contact media to let keep your loved one in the media, using fundraisers and rewards to keep the spotlight on your loved one.

  • Keep a FB page dedicated to your missing loved one where you can share information with your supporters. Don’t stop telling their story.

  • Ask LE if you should submit a DNA sample.

  • Be careful of groups wanting to charge you, do your research. Missing persons families are easy targets.

  • Consider talking with another family with a missing loved one.

Image by Jenna Neal

Search & Rescue


*In order to utilize SAR, you must have the support of LE


Rapid Search & Rescue dsSAR

Wisconsin K9 SOS


Nicolet Search Team Inc

K-9 Emergency Response Teams

Valley Mounted Volunteers Search and Rescue


Sunset in the Woods




Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Missing & Exploited Children & Adults

Jacob Wetterling Resource Center


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Wisconsin Missing Persons Advocacy Inc 

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