A new program is being initiated by the Sussex County Sherriff’s office. Project Lifesavers, is a project designed to help people who have conditions such as Alzheimer ’s disease or Autism. This program involves the use of a device which can locate people with those conditions who wonder away and get lost.
“We applied for a grant through Project Lifesavers,” Valerie Patterson-Ricks of the Sussex County Sheriff’s office said. “There’s six of us, we want to make sure we have three people on each side of the county so if it was something we’d get called out, we could go.”
Project Lifesaver International was founded by public safety officers themselves to bring about a solution that facilitates the rapid location of wanderers. It was a strategy that greatly facilitates the chance that the wanderer will be found alive. Currently, over 1400 agencies and groups in 48 states, Australia, and six provinces in Canada participate in the program. Police, sheriff, fire and other emergency responders and departments have adopted the program.
“If people have someone in their family that wanders, people who are autistic, has dementia, down syndrome, that has the tendency to wander away the home, for care, concern and knowing there’s something available, we’re just asking to put the word out there,” Ricks said. “It’s available. Don’t let something that we have in the county go unused and this is a way to help get the word out there.”
The device used to located people who wander involves a small watch-like wristband that the person in question can wear. This was tested at the Wakefield Homecoming event, when one of the Sussex officers located a hidden wrist device.
The method relies on proven radio technology and a specially trained search and rescue team. Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small transmitter that emits an individualized tracking signal. When caregivers notify a local Project Lifesaver agency that the person is missing, a trained team responds to the wanderer’s area and starts searching with a mobile tracking system. Most who wander are found a few miles from home, in approximately 30 minutes.
“If the person is able to drive, this won’t do us any good,” Ricks said. “The person could get all the way Petersburg. If they’re the type who’s just walking and wandering, this is not to make people uncomfortable, it’s so people can not worry and definitely for us to not worry.”
The bill to taxpayers is cut. Individuals are found safer and quicker. Project Lifesaver agencies have conducted more than 3,000 successful searches for enrolled individuals, and all those missing are returned safely to their families with no serious injuries or fatality reports.
Public safety agencies have reported budget cuts. Search and rescue operations typically cost taxpayers $1500 per hour and without the availability of electronic devices to assist in the rescue, suck operations can take up to nine hours on average to complete.
“We’re more knowledgeable because of Project Lifesaver,” Ricks said. “It’s make you take more notice. It’s not recommended for someone who drives, it has a mile range but we can triangulate so we can cover big areas.”