The Oswego County E-911 and Sheriff’s Offices are asking residents living with Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, dementia, autism and other related disorders to sign up now for the Project Lifesaver (PLS) program. This service helps with their rapid location in the event that they walk away from their home or caregiver and become lost.
“We are fortunate to be able to offer the Project Lifesaver program to residents in Oswego County,” said Linda Lockwood, chairwoman of the County Legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee, “It provides assurance to families of loved ones who wander due to cognitive conditions.”
Project Lifesaver works with more than 1,200 agencies across the United States, Canada and Australia. Together they have performed over 2,000 searches in the last 11 years with no serious injuries or fatalities being reported. The U.S. national average recovery time of a missing client is just 30 minutes.
“Project Lifesaver provides a quick response to save lives and reduce potential serious injury of our clients,” said Oswego County Sheriff Reuel A. Todd. “The program assists our local county and municipal law enforcement and public safety organizations with equipment, training and support to aid victims and families living with these disorders.”
Project Lifesaver training includes the use of specialized electronic search and rescue equipment as well as teaching rescuers how to communicate with individuals afflicted with these conditions, all of which are essential to a successful rescue.
The Oswego County Sheriff’s Office recently held a training session for the PLS program at Great Bear Springs Recreation Area in the town of Volney.
The exercise began with one deputy taking a transmitter out into the nature park while the remainder of the five-person team “searched” for him. They began the search with a car-mounted receiver designed to pick up a signal within a quarter of a mile. The trail eventually became impassable and the team switched to a hand-held device with a scanning radius of one mile.
The search continued to test the functionality and accuracy of the PLS equipment which was confirmed by the receiver “chirping” out a steady signal from the transmitter. Shortly thereafter, the “lost” deputy was found safely.
The training continued with a second exercise. Two deputies took the transmitter further into the park and the rest of the team began the search. The “lost” deputies traveled in the opposite direction as the group approached them, prompting the search to continue back to the entrance of the park where they were finally located.
According to Deputy Kristy Crast, “This is a very realistic component of a search. When clients on the PLS program wander off, they will likely be confused and disoriented and may not even realize that they are lost. They could become scared and run away from those who are trying to help them.”
This makes the regular checks that are part of the program so important. PLS personnel visit with the client when they change out batteries and wristbands and test equipment each month. This gives the client an opportunity to become familiar with the team members who will actually be searching for them. The aim is that, by building a good rapport, the client will recognize them during an actual search and not be afraid.
In the event of a real emergency, the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver Personnel and the Oswego County Search and Rescue Team would be dispatched when the E-911 Emergency Communications Center receives a call that someone with a PLS transmitter wristband has wandered off. These teams are specially trained to respond with PLS receiver units that pinpoint the lost client’s location.
Oswego County maintains a contract with Project Lifesaver International, a not-for-profit organization that assists in the location of lost people with cognitive disorders. It provides local law enforcement and public safety organizations with equipment, training and support while administrative duties associated with the program are performed through the Oswego County E-911 Emergency Communications Center.
Individuals can join the PLS program for a start-up fee of $320 for the first year. This covers the cost of the transmitter, twelve wristbands and batteries, equipment testing and location service. For each subsequent year, the maintenance fee is $120; or $10 per month. This includes a new wristband and battery as well as an equipment check by a qualified responder to ensure the component is operational.
The Oswego County Legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee oversees the E-911 Office. In addition to Legislator Lockwood, the committee includes Vice Chairwoman Margaret Kastler, District 1; Shawn Doyle, District 3; Mary Flett, District 17; Kevin Gardner, District 13; John Martino, District 6; and Amy Tresidder, District 16.
For more information or to sign up for the Project Lifesaver program, call the Oswego County E-911 Office at 315-349-8215 or 1-800-679-3911.