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Project Lifesaver helps find lost loved ones

By Staff | Jun 13, 2008

For some people, it’s been the ultimate horror story.

Grandma or Grandpa is in long-term care and wanders off and is missing for hours, maybe even a day. What would you do?

Thankfully, there is a program that can help — Project Lifesaver.

Emmet County Chief Deputy Mike Martens Thursday at the Estherville VFW Post No. 3388 told Estherville Rotarians how Project Lifesaver has quite possibly saved a number of lives right here in northwestern Iowa.

The program uses radio telemetry to locate a person wearing a special wristband-mounted receiver.

Whether it’s an elderly patient with Alzheimer’s or a child with autism, Project Lifesaver can help caregivers and families find people who should wander off.

Martens and Sheriff Larry Lamack received training in the program sponsored by Northwest Aging Association of Spencer. Emmet County has partnered with other counties in the program, making it a truly regional effort.

Currently, Martens is “between clients” but has had some previously. What is really important about having a way of tracking those who wander off is the fact they they can walk three or four miles in an hour — increasing the radius of a search area.

Fortunately, Project Lifesaver works very well in cutting down search time. Martens said the last time he had a call it took 15-20 minutes to find the person.

The transmitter can be put on a person’s ankle or wrist. Martens meets with the client monthly to change transmitter batteries and to see how the person is doing with the program.

An omnidirectional antenna can be placed on a squad car or airplane or searchers can use a directional antenna, both of which emit a chirp when within range of the person wearing the transmitter. The system has a range of two to three miles on the ground or much further in the air.

Each transmitter is set to a different frequency to prevent any signal misreadings.

“It’s just another way to look after our loved ones,”

Martens said.

To learn more about the program, call Martens at 712-362-2639.