The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help quickly locate people who tend to wander. Those with conditions such as dementia, autism and Downs syndrome have a propensity to wander and the new Project Lifesaver equipment makes the job of finding them much easier, said Sheriff Jeff Jeager.
“From the time they’re reported missing, the average locate time is 20 minutes,” Jaeger said. “It’s a pretty effective program and there are certainly people in our community that can use this program.”
Clients enrolled in the service will wear a wristwatch sized radio transmitter on their wrist or ankle. The transmitter constantly emits a VHF Radio frequency signal, which can be tracked regardless of where the person has wandered – even into a densely wooded area, a marsh, a concrete structure such as a garage, or a building constructed with steel. When a loved one goes missing, caregivers notify locally trained agencies and they are dispatched to the wanderer’s area.
“If we had to do a search where we had an autistic child wander, that search could go into days,” said Lt. Tim Fischer. “The cost could exceed tens of thousands of dollars. With this we can cover 10 square miles in very short time.”
The old-school VHF technology is more reliable than satellite systems that can lose a signal in secluded areas, Jaeger noted.
As of last week, Lincoln County already had one client enrolled in the program and expected more to be coming onboard. The cost of enrolling in Project Lifesaver is $300, but the Sheriff’s Office has some funding available to waive that fee for families for the time being. Those enrolled would still be responsible for a $10 per month battery maintenance charge.
Taylor County has been using the Project Lifesaver program and averages about 10 clients. Jaeger said he expects about the same number in Lincoln County.
Project Lifesaver is an international program, so clients can be tracked if they should wander while on vacation or visiting other parts of the country or world by the local agency there.
Project Lifesaver International has conducted mandatory training and provided certification, ongoing management and support to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Their training included teaching public safety officials how to use the equipment and how to gain the trust of and communicate with people who wander, as well as to ensure that caregivers are well versed in the program – all of which are essential to a successful rescue. Lt. Fischer and Sgt. Jolena Davies attended the training and are heading the program at the Sheriff’s Office. Additional staff members will also be trained in the use of the tracking equipment.
The Sheriff’s Office has two tracking units and a third on order to gain optimal tracking abilities.
“With three people you can cover three square miles in seconds,” Fischer said.
Sheriff Jaeger advises the program is now up and running and enrollments are being accepted. Families and caregivers can enroll their loved ones by contacting Lt. Tim Fischer or Sgt. Jolena Davies at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. For more information, contact Project Lifesaver at 1-877-580-5433 or www.projectlifesaver.org.