5 steps to take when a loved one goes missing August 12, 2022

No one is ever prepared for the traumatic experience that comes when someone you love goes missing. No manual tells you what exactly to do in scenarios like this. Unfortunately, the only examples we have are from T.V Series, which are close to our reality.

A piece of news that recently moved us is the missing case of Kiely Rodni, a 16-year-old teenager who disappeared after attending a campground party in Northern California. We are concerned about the family and friends who are working hard and doing their best to find her.

In our role of providing relevant information to the community, we want to take action for Rodni's family and future families that can experience the same situation. We’ve prepared a practical guide to search for a loved one. We know it’s not easy to think that someone close to us can go missing but there is always that possibility, so it’s better to be prepared and know what to do.

Please continue reading and take notes of all the steps you can follow from the moment you know that someone you loved is missing.

What to do when someone goes missing? #

1. Report the person as missing #

It is a common belief that you have to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing, but as soon as your loved one’s whereabouts are unknown and there is a concern for their safety and welfare, they can be reported missing to the police.

First, you should check the areas normally frequented by the missing loved one and contact the last persons who were with them to see if they have any clue where the person could be. If there is no answer or idea, this is already enough of a sign to take action and report them as missing persons to your local police.

You may also want to read: How to help when there is a missing person in your area

We recommend you file the report in person and convey the reason for your concerns. It would be better to go with someone who shares your worry. Police must take reports of missing persons, and do not accept if they send you away.


Keep in mind the following recommendations as you prepare to report to the police:

  • Provide the most appropriate recent photograph of the missing person and be prepared for them to be used across media. On HelpYouFindMe we motivate people to store their recent pictures, which later will help in scenarios like this, where people need to know how you look to identify you quickly.
  • Be completely honest, providing solid information helps police prioritize. Try to be as detailed as possible.
  • Establish a good relationship with the police officers handling the case.
  • You can ask that all stations in surrounding areas be alerted via internal communications.
  • Check if the officer in charge has reason to advise against media attention before alerting the media. Sometimes the investigation can be contaminated by sensationalist media.
  • Another tip to keep in mind is to leave the missing person's room and things alone in case the police need to take a DNA sample.

2. Keep a record: write down everything #

Every detail you know about your missing person is crucial for the police investigation. It is worth recording every detail while they are fresh in your mind; we suggest taking a moment to get all the information written down. Even facts you do not seem particularly relevant may be practical later.

You can have either a hard copy or a soft copy of notes detailing facts, contacts, lists, etc. A completed form will help when you decide to report to the police and appeal to the public.

To give you an idea of how to create a report, consider the following:

  • Create a timeline of events, and note anything you can think of, for instance, the last place the missing person visited and the last contact they could have.
  • Check any accounts you may share or know the login details for clues. On HelpYouFind.Me, we understand how relevant it is to have access to the accounts of your loved one in critical situations. That is why one of our features is a space to add all this important data so that in the case a loved one goes missing, you can have access and act immediately.
  • Call their close friends and connections, write down anything relevant, and request them to call you back if they remember something important. People get nervous in situations like this, so be patient because they are doing their best.


You are not alone in this situation, lots of people want to help, so let them be part of the search. The first step in a productive search is to delegate, and take advantage of people’s skills. Define who will design, write, manage digital platforms, etc. Remember to use volunteers wisely, don’t burn them out.


Here are some directions to lead a successful search:

  • Print and display posters, and don’t forget to share them across social media.
  • Appoint a family member or close friend to be the primary contact with media and law enforcement.
  • Knock on doors in the area they were last seen and significant places (e.g. favorite park).
  • Talk regularly with the officer assigned to the case. It will help you to keep your timeline updated.
  • Contact hospitals, public transport, crisis accommodation, homelessness services, etc. And ask them to display the poster.
  • Keep you and the research team energized, eat your daily meals, and drink water.
  • When posting a reward, work with law enforcement to decide on the details.
  • Keep the public aware of your story. The police can provide guidance when contacting the news media.
  • Listen to volunteer suggestions. When people tell you new ideas about how to expand the campaign, encourage them to run with it. You will have limited time and energy, so the more people that can help the better.
  • Try not to be disheartened when people don’t stick to a commitment. As genuine as a close friend or volunteer’s desire to help is, their world hasn’t stopped as yours.

We admire Rodni’s family, who are following this step and doing their part in the investigation. They created the Find Kiely Website to provide essential info and report all the activities they are organizing looking for a successful search.

Please visit the website, and if you have any relevant information that may help them, feel free to share it.

If you do not want to provide your personal information, they have an anonymous tip line that you can call.

4. Look after yourself #

In moments like this, you are focused and worried about the missing person but also worry about yourself. The physical and mental impact can be just as debilitating as the emotional, please do whatever it takes to get sleep and eat well. Remember you are not alone, accept support from family and friends.

Also, read The ultimate "If I go missing" folder template and checklist

Here are some suggestions that could help you keep going and stay healthy while you are looking for your loved one:

  • Keep a simple routine, wash and get dressed and make yourself a hot drink.
  • Keep moving and go outside, it is not always about exercise; change seats, open a window, take a short walk.
  • Set an achievable goal, something easy that you know you can do for yourself and the searching. It will make you feel you have accomplished something.
  • Take time to be compassionate to yourself, you are dealing with a traumatic experience, and you need to be gentle with yourself.


5. Help is there for you #

Seek help from the organizations listed for additional information, guidance, and support.

List of organizations that will help you:


It is not illegal to go missing #

A missing person will not be in trouble or arrested for going missing. It is not wasting police time to report someone missing. You won't be in danger by reporting someone missing.

Time will be your ally in moments like this, and as fast as you can report your loved one as a missing person will be better to take action.

Now, take time to process all the information that we provide you for future emergencies. And If you are in a similar situation, we are truly sorry and hope this guide works as a guideline for you and your close ones.

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Written by
Vanessa Martínez

Vanessa Martínez