Agencies finding solutions for those who wander, get lost

Local law enforcement agencies are working together to bring Project Lifesaver to families of those with special needs. Project Lifesaver International was founded in April 1999 and dedicates its service to protecting those who tend to wander or become lost.  Clients on the program have a variety of disorders including Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, autism and traumatic brain injuries. Worldwide, Project Lifesaver Search Teams have been called into action 2,488 times and still maintain a 100 percent success rate of locating the client and returning the person to loved ones alive, with an average recovery time around 30 minutes.

The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office and Big Lake Police Department received various grants in 2011 to fund the base equipment and training to search for Project Lifesaver clients in this  area. The Elk River Police Department is an associate member as well, assisting the sheriff’s office within their city limits with the program. Becker Police Department is also supportive of Project Lifesaver’s goals and encourages their residents to contact the sheriff’s office should their household be interested in the benefits of this program.

“What an excellent opportunity for law enforcement to be able to have a tool such as Project Lifesaver and be able to provide a service not available before that will assist in the response to our wandering or lost program clients and increase our ability to locate them.  The partnerships developed between law enforcement, Health and Human Services and Guardian Angels of Elk River, who has agreed to be the fiscal agent for the program, have made this process a success,” said Big Lake Police Chief Sean Rifenberick.  “We already have families in all jurisdictions interested in the program and we are looking forward to being able to service them and hopefully bring them a little peace of mind.”

Dan Dixon, president/CEO of Guardian Angels of Elk River said Guardian Angels is very pleased to support the program.

“We see daily first-hand the good work that is done when agencies like this work together for the greater good of the community and its seniors,” Dixon said.

The technology behind Project Lifesaver is simple. Departments will use a transmitter (about the size of a wristwatch) that emits a signal specifically designated for each client. The client wears the transmitter, usually on his or her wrist or ankle. If the client bolts or becomes lost, as is often found in autism and Alzheimer’s cases, the client’s caregivers can call 911 to activate the Project Lifesaver search team.  The search teams consist of deputies from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the Big Lake and Elk River police departments who are trained in the operation of Project Lifesaver search equipment and search and rescue techniques.

“The combined efforts of these agencies will assist with timely search and rescue efforts to bring area loved ones home. We are all working together to achieve the end goal of finding people quickly and returning them safely to their caregiver,” said Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott. “In addition, Project Lifesaver International currently is supported by bordering jurisdictions in Anoka and Wright counties if more help would ever be needed.”

Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe said the Elk River Police Department is also excited to be a participant in Project Lifesaver.

“Our city encompasses 44 square miles, much of it wooded, with lakes, rivers, streams and ponds,” Rolfe said. “The safe resolution of searches for our vulnerable citizens is significantly enhanced by locating them as quickly as possible.

“The search capabilities provided by Project Lifesaver allow us to reduce our search area, which will contribute greatly to a positive outcome for these potentially dangerous incidents,” he said.

There a few responsibilities the client’s family or caregiver will have with Project Conserve. The requirements are daily testing of the transmitter to verify battery power, along with arranging a time for a deputy/officer/or reserve volunteer to change the battery every 30 to 60 days, depending on model used.

Local organizations have already contributed to help fund Project Lifesaver of Sherburne County to allow purchases of further equipment and supplies to have on hand for new and existing clients as needed. Those organizations include:

•Sherburne County Safe Child Council

•Elk River Police Association

•Sherburne County Sheriff’s Association

•Clear Lake Lions

•Elk River Lions

For more information regarding Project Lifesaver or for an application for Project Lifesaver of Sherburne County, visit www.co.sherburne.mn.us under County Highlights or via the local police department’s website or office. Departments began taking applications for the program on March 1.

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