Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Training Helps CCSO Find Missing People By Air

Specialized equipment and training is helping the Collier County Sheriff's Office shave critical minutes from the time it takes to find people who have wandered away due to a medical or other condition.

Eight CCSO members are being trained today to use Project Lifesaver equipment that makes it possible to find missing people through an air search. Project Lifesaver is targeted toward those individuals suffering from afflictions such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia or autism.

The CCSO is already able to search by ground for those wearing Project Lifesaver bracelet transmitters. However, ground-based receivers are limited to picking up signals in about a one-mile range. From the air, the range extends five to seven miles.

"When someone has been missing for more than an hour or has had access to a vehicle, this lets us broaden our ability to find them," said Angela Larson, the CCSO's supervisor of senior services.

Once a signal is picked up from a helicopter, deputies on the ground are contacted and given information that will help them pinpoint their search.

Thanks to Project Lifesaver, searches that used to take hours can now take minutes.

More than 1,400 searches have been completed nationwide through Project Lifesaver. The program requires that the person being monitored have a full-time caregiver who will check the battery. For those who can afford it there is a monthly fee of $10, which covers the cost of a battery and bracelet change.

The Pilot Club of Naples has donated money to buy transmitters, which are worn on either the wrist or ankle; the receivers used to track the signal; and the training that allows CCSO members to use the equipment.

For more information on Project Lifesaver go to www.colliersheriff.org or www.projectlifesaver.org.