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Project Lifesaver: A way to monitor the lost

Deputy Tom Iten holds the transmitter that can go on an Alzheimer’s patient’s wrist or ankle in his right hand and the receiver or tracking device in his left hand during a training session for Albany Police Department officers Wednesday. A member of the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama, Iten was here to lead the training with Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bill Riley.

Deputy Tom Iten holds the transmitter that can go on an Alzheimer’s patient’s wrist or ankle in his right hand and the receiver or tracking device in his left hand during a training session for Albany Police Department officers Wednesday. A member of the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama, Iten was here to lead the training with Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bill Riley.

ALBANY, Ga. — With hands on practice, Albany Police Department officers found Project Lifesaver tracking devices easy to use Wednesday in Riverfront Park.

Officers from various units received about 10 hours classroom instruction and four hours practice this week on devices designed to track anyone wearing a bracelet with a transmitter on it who has wandered away from home.

Most commonly the transmitters are put on wrists of people with conditions that cause them to leave home unattended such as Alzheimer’s or autism. People with those conditions can be injured and killed as they get lost.

Since the 2009 start of the project, 2,522 people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism have been rescued, according to the website projectlifesaver.org.

“Using the Lifesaver device will make our recovery time shorter and easier,” said Detective Bryant Leverett. “We’ll be able to minimize the amount of harm to people who go missing.”

The police have a limited number of the $280 wrist bracelet devices that came through the Lifesaver Project grant. They are hoping for the community and community-minded organizations to become partners and help them purchase more.

Those interested in obtaining bracelet transmitters will have to go through an application process, said Phyllis Banks, police spokeswoman. She can be reached at (229) 483-6298 about the process.

Two enthusiastic sheriff’s deputies put the officers through the training. They explained the history behind the devices, how the devices work and put on a demonstration for the media.

Coon dogs used to get lost on Virginia hunting trips, said Deputy Bill Riley of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. The original tracking bracelets were made to find the dogs in the woods. The dog trackers morphed into the much more modern, lightweight bracelets for humans.

The implementation is simple in our technological age, according to Deputy Tom Iten of the Coffee County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office. Residents wear the transmitter that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client disappears, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency.

A trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area. Most who wander are found within a few miles from home. Search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes, Iten said. He said recovery times for clients average 30 minutes — 95 percent less time than regular operations.

The device has a range of a mile on the ground. In a helicopter its range is 12 miles.

The cost is also much less. Iten said that mounting a search and rescue operation without the transmitter help can cost more than $100,000.

In a demonstration an officer was given a five minute head start to run and hide in the park. With a slow gait and an ear to the chirping of the receiver, Iten found the missing officer in about four minutes.