Orange County residents and visitors now have access to a life-saving program that aids individuals prone to wandering off and getting lost.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently became a member agency of Project Lifesaver International, which provides life-saving technology to individuals who are prone to wandering off, such as individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or autism, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said in a press conference Sept. 10.
“It is designed to protect the at-risk populations in our communities,” Demings said of Project Lifesaver. “Clients wear a small transmitter on their wrists or ankle that emits an individualized radio frequency. Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office — who will be specifically trained in search efforts — can then respond using the client’s individualized frequency (if a client wanders off).”
The program utilizes a radio-frequency device — and in some cases, a drone — to search for individuals who go missing. A key benefit of the program is it helps locate enrolled missing persons quickly. Additionally, because Project Lifesaver is an international organization, the program also benefits the tourists who visit Orange County if they enrolled in the program elsewhere, Demings said.
Demings said he had been working with District 13 State Sen. Linda Stewart since last November to secure funding for the program. Stewart submitted a request in the amount of $75,000 for the program during the last senate session.
“This particular project is important to me, because I know the statistics of individuals who become lost on foot, and how this project can help save countless lives within the community,” Stewart said. “I am excited that we were able to receive the appropriation of $75,000 to help the Orange County Sheriff’s Office partner with Project Lifesaver International so that they may continue saving lives and making the community a safe place for all residents.”
Laura Lang, a senior advocate and senior crime prevention programs coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office, said the program will offer peace of mind.
“By having the small transmitter bracelet on the wrist or ankle, I would know there is a system in place to find them should they wander off,” Lang said. “It is also a great tool for the OCSO, because we get visitors from across the county and around the world, and if a tourist wanders away and they are part of Project Lifesaver, we can use our program to locate them, as well.”
Project Lifesaver International CEO Gene Saunders founded the nonprofit in 1999 while he served as a captain in the Chesapeake Police Department. At the time, he was in charge of finding missing persons. He got the idea for Project Lifesaver while browsing brochures pertaining to tracking wildlife.
There are 1,600 participating member agencies across 50 states in the United States and seven provinces in Canada. To date, the Project Lifesaver program has assisted in more than 3,400 successful rescues.