It is not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other disorders to wander away from home. It is a scary situation for family members and caregivers — and a major concern for police and other public safety agencies.
Now a new Mineral County program will help in some of those situations. Project Lifesaver, a service already under way in 40 other West Virginia counties, is getting ready to launch.
Sheriff Jeremy Taylor said Project Lifesaver has played a key role in locating many missing West Virginians. “The major benefit of the program is saving lives. If someone wanders off, the first 24 hours are the most critical.
“On average, someone is found within the first hour if they are involved with this program,” Taylor said. After 24 hours, survival rates drop to 50 percent.
A state grant will be used by the sheriff to purchase 14 transmitters and two receivers that will be located at separate ends of the county.
Persons who have a tendency to wander will be fitted with a bracelet and authorities will be able to track their whereabouts through a unique emission signal. Each transmitter bracelet will have a number assigned to it which will be given to the caregiver and will be on file at the sheriff’s office as well as the 911 center, according to Taylor.
Once a person is reported missing, the 911 center will obtain information about when and where the person was last seen and will pass that information to the sheriff’s office, which will then key in the transmitter code. The information gives the officers a general area in which to start the search and the transmitter will beep loudly once the officers get close to the missing person.
In coming weeks and months, the sheriff plans to visit Mineral County fire departments and train volunteers on how to use the receivers.
The 14 transmitters will be available for the public in the next two to three weeks. Anyone who wants to receive a transmitter must first obtain a doctor’s recommendation before contacting the sheriff’s office at 304-788-4107 to be put on a waiting list.