By Rachel Kytonen/Isanti County News—
When a young boy from North Branch went missing, it took 50 law enforcement and emergency responders three hours to find him.
Since the Project Lifesaver program was launched in Chisago County about one year ago, the same young boy has gone missing twice. But since he’s on the program—which provides a rapid response to locate missing people—it took only one emergency responder 8 minutes and 12 minutes to locate him those two times.
A young boy from Braham will now be able to benefit from Project Lifesaver. Nancy Johnson’s 11-year-old son Sebastian enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program through Chisago County recently.
Project Lifesaver International is nonprofit organization that bridges the technological gap for “at risk” populations and public safety agencies. They provide police, fire-rescue and other first responders with a comprehensive program including equipment and training to quickly locate and rescue “at risk” individuals with cognitive disorders who are at constant risk to the life threatening behavior of wandering, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, autism and Down syndrome.
Chisago County Deputy Sheriff Mark Stovern explained those enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, which is normally a law enforcement agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area.
“Project Lifesaver works very well,” Deputy Stovern said. “This program eliminates the need for many personnel to respond when someone wanders off and the average recovery time is less than 30 minutes. The bracelet cannot be taken off by the person wearing it.”
Deputy Stovern said the program works off of an FM frequency, so it can transmit signals in wooded areas and inside buildings. A receiver is moved in different directions until the targeted frequency (like tuning to a station on the radio dial) registers through a series of “beeps.” The louder the “beep,” the closer the officer is to the transmitter and thus, the victim.
Deputy Stovern said most who wander are found within a few miles from home. Since the program launched in Chisago County in December 2011, they have done six searches, with an average of 12 minutes in finding the missing person. He said Chisago County currently has eight children on the Project Lifesaver program, with Sebastian being the ninth child.
Johnson explained she is very grateful to the Isanti Lions Club who donated $300 to pay for the bracelet for Sebastian to get enrolled in the program. Sebastian is a fifth-grader at Cambridge Intermediate School.
Isanti County Investigator Lisa Lovering explained she is working on obtaining funding to get Isanti County enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program.
Lovering explained she has secured $1,000 from the Walmart Foundation and is looking for more sponsors.
“It will cost Isanti County almost $5,000 to get the program going,” Lovering said. “We do have the need here in Isanti County and have many people, young and old, with autism, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s that would be good candidates with this program. They have a 100 percent success rate of finding lost people alive using Project Lifesaver.”
Deputy Stovern explained the transmitter bracelet works up to 15 feet in water. He said the program is also compatible with the State Patrol helicopters if they are available at the time of the search.
Deputy Stovern explained Chisago County received a grant in the amount of $5,800 to implement the program in Chisago County. The grant paid for three receivers and transmitters and training for seven deputies. He said the local Lions Clubs, Legion Clubs and private parties have all donated to the program in Chisago County.
The benefitting families pay a $5 monthly maintenance fee to be on the program that pays for law enforcement to come and check the bracelet and replace the battery.
About Project Lifesaver
Project Lifesaver has over 1,200 participating agencies throughout 46 states in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and has performed 2,601 searches in the last 13 years with no serious injuries or fatalities ever reported.
Project Lifesaver provides equipment, training, certification and support to law enforcement, public safety organizations and community groups throughout the country and nation.
Project Lifesaver International provides in-depth training for law enforcement and other public safety agencies on the use of specialized electronic search and rescue equipment, technology and procedures, as well as teaching rescuers how to communicate with people afflicted with cognitive conditions, all of which are essential to the successful rescue of missing persons who wander or otherwise become lost. They certify search and rescue personnel and provide ongoing management to participating agencies.
In addition, Project Lifesaver develops public outreach programs to educate others about the issue of wandering, and they constantly work toward developing public policy and effective law enforcement response to help save lives and “bring loved ones home.”
For more information on Project Lifesaver visit www.projectlifesaver.org.