The Long County Sheriff’s Office recently joined forces with Project Lifesaver International to help locate community members who wander away from their homes.
Sheriff Craig Nobles said people of all ages, especially children and senior citizens, may stray for any number of reasons, including complications resulting from conditions like autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease or permanent head trauma.
Deputy Diannia Duncan, who heads up the program for the sheriff’s office, said that when someone does wander away, families feel powerless, knowing their loved one may be in danger.
“It is a helpless feeling when you turn your back for a second, or just around your home, and find that your loved one has disappeared due to a medical or mental condition that may cause them to wander,” Duncan said.
With new technology, she said, people can be found quickly, ensuring their safety and giving families peace of mind that eluded them in the past. The program requires the at-risk individual to wear a small radio transmitter on the wrist or ankle. Duncan said that if the wearer does wander away, authorities have a receiver that picks up the transmitter’s radio wave, letting them pinpoint the lost person’s location. The transmitter signal is detectable up to 7 miles in the air, so helicopter searches are an option, and up to 1 mile on the ground. The receiver’s reception ability is broad, but as authorities get closer to a lost person, it can be narrowed and the signal strengthens.
According to Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Lt. James Moore, Project Lifesaver International began in 1999 and currently is used by more than 2,000 law-enforcement agencies, including those in Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties. The program has aided in more than 2,000 successful recoveries across the nation and, when used properly, the system has a 100 percent success rate. Chatham County has been using Project Lifesaver for four years, Moore said, and it has saved 12 people’s lives.
Nobles said implemented the program last week by giving the first transmitter to 16-year-old James Blakeley. The sheriff said he hopes Project Lifesaver will serve the county well. Anyone interested in helping a loved one qualify for the program should call the sheriff’s office at 545-2118.