Saturday, November 21, 2009

Uptown Westerville is a Place for Project Lifesaver

Westerville Division of Police recently introduced Project Lifesaver, a rapid response program utilizing a personalized bracelet and tracking device that allows officers to quickly locate and return people with Alzheimer’s or autism if they wander from home or their care.

Westerville News and Public Opinion recently explain the program in an article by Bret Liebendorfer:

'Lifesaver' tech to help track missing with Alzheimer's, autism

* $4,500 grant will pay for equipment that successfully concludes most hunts for the missing within 30 minutes.


Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 4:37 PM EST

Westerville police have been using a high-tech game of hide and seek to train for searches involving those with diminished capacities.Thanks to a $4,500 grant from the Franklin County Department of Aging, the department will soon have Project Lifesaver, a system that tracks a person with Alzheimer's or autism by a personal transmitter if they wander off.

"Without Project Lifesaver, it's a labor-intensive search that takes a lot of time and sometimes the results aren't what we want," said Lt. Tracey Myers adding that most searches with Project Lifesaver end within 30 minutes.First used in 1999 for those lost in the wilderness, by the Search and Rescue Company of Chesapeake Sheriff's Office in Virginia, it soon was learned that the technology, now used in most states, could be used to find those with diminished capacities.

Statistics Myers presented to local media on Friday, Nov. 13 during a demonstration stated that 59 percent of the 5.2 million in the country with Alzheimer's disease wander off, with the majority of those doing so repeatedly. With baby boomers aging the number of people with Alzheimer's is projected to increase to 15 million by 2030.

Another group likely to benefit are those with autism, which includes students at Oakstone Academy, a school for autistic children that moved to Westerville in 2007 at 939 S. State St., the former site of the Westerville Athletic Club.Julie Sharp, a teacher at the school with two autistic sons, said the school used similar tracking technology for students on a field trip to New York City.

"It made me feel a level of comfortability," Sharp said. "It gave us an added measure of security."One of her sons is a prototypical candidate for Project Lifesaver, she said, because of his tendency to run away from his caregivers and become lost.The technology includes a band worn by users that is about the size of a watch and broadcasts on a known frequency. The personal transmitter emits a unique radio frequency instead of GPS technology, which requires a large battery and can be affected by weather.

Myers said the technology is similar to that used to track animals but is not demeaning because of the assistance it provides in locating individuals who could suffer injury or death. Also, most individuals outfitted with the equipment, which can be worn on the ankle, are unaware of its significance.

Training so far has been conducted with the help of the Ross County Sheriff's Office at Sharon Woods Park, Hoff Woods Park and in Uptown, and the entire Westerville Division of Police will be trained on the new equipment.

Due to Project Lifesaver's 1-mile effective range, the division wants recipients to have a full-time caregiver, so police are notified quickly when participants turn up missing.For more information on the program, contact Westerville Police Communications Service Aid Jennifer Kennedy at 614-901-6860

To read this article online, click here.

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