What Does "Code Adam" Mean?


Code Adam is a nationwide alert system that first began in Wal-Mart. It alerts employees over the public address system that a child is missing and to actively search the store premises. The purpose of Code Adam is to act quickly and effectively to prevent harm to any child who has been separated from a loved one.


  • Code Adam's history dates back to July 27, 1981. A 6-year-old named Adam Walsh and his mother Reve were shopping at a Florida department store mall that was a mile from their home. Adam asked his mom if he could play with several children who were camped out in front of a video game display. Mom agreed and proceeded to shop for a lamp about 75 feet from where Adam was playing. The lamp she wanted was not in stock, so she returned less than 10 minutes after Adam's went to play. But Adam was nowhere to be seen. Reve looked for her son for two hours before someone notified the police department. A little more than two weeks later, Adam's body was found and identified. He had been abducted and murdered.

How It Works

  • Once notified of a missing child, an employee must get a detailed description of the child, including name, age, sex, hair color, height and weight. The employee then pages "Code Adam," and all store associates (except cashiers) are to look for the missing child. Associates who are in charge of the entrances and exits are to question customers who have children matching the description of the missing child. The parent is also brought to the front of the store to help in identification. If a child is found and appears to be unharmed, then he is reunited with his parent. The alert ceases after an associate pages "Code Adam canceled."

Police Involvement

  • If a child is not found after 10 minutes or if the child is seen with someone other than the parent or guardian, then the local police should be notified. Employees are told to use reasonable measures to delay the suspected child abductor's exit from the store, but they should not put themselves in any immediate danger.


  • According to the Walmartstores website, Code Adam is used in more than 89,000 locations across the country, including some federal buildings. Wal-Mart has been using the Code Adam system since 1994, and in 2003 Congress passed legislation implementing the system in federal buildings. The big-box store company also partners with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help strengthen the system. Code Adam is an effective and proactive way to find a missing child because it is simple and easy to learn. It provides maximum coverage in a short time. The system is easy to implement, and it is easy to train employees about what is expected of them.


  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
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