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Project Lifesaver proves its value during mock rescue

The program's primary mission is to provide a timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children with the propensity to wander due to a cognitive condition

A joint mock exercise between the North Bay Police Emergency Response Team and BAYSAR Air Search and Rescue volunteers, including an aircraft, proved using a small radio wristband is an effective way to find missing people Wednesday.

The exercise was held to become more familiar with the actual devices that are used and to employ an aircraft in the search.

Project Lifesaver clients, including seniors with dementia and youth with autism, are outfitted with a small radio transmitter that can be worn on the wrist or ankle which transmit a unique pulse every second of every day. The frequency and matching vulnerable person information is catalogued in the North Bay Police Service database. The transmitters are designed to withstand daily wear and tear and are waterproof so clients can bathe and swim without removing them. 

See: Project lifesaver saves a local life

And: This Project Lifesaver technology helps protect vulnerable loved ones who wander

It's helped find three local people that were reported missing in the past year, and all were found within minutes.

BAYSAR president Stan French told reporters yesterday that a big plus to the system is that it immediately narrows the search.

"With the electronic signal being sent out, there is something to look for other than trying to go off in steadily expanding circles with less probability of detection. What we did today is that the aircrew was able to identify a zone where the signal was received and transmit it to a command post where we were able to deploy ground teams into the general area."

A search without Project Lifesaver would probably have needed hundreds of personnel deployed in the search area to be able to come up with anywhere near the same results said French.

The device is a small hospital-like bracelet that remains securely on the wrist or ankle of the client until it is removed in 60 days to replace the battery.

There are presently 23 clients signed up and French says they can expand that if the need is there.

"The 23 clients include North Bay and the area patrolled by North Bay OPP and Nipissing West OPP. We've received a number of referrals through the Alzheimer's Society and One Kids Place and there's been some families that have contacted us themselves."

Anybody that has a family member prone to wandering or at high risk of going missing can contact BAYSAR to register.

For the mock exercise, there were three volunteers in the aircraft, a Cessna 172, and three more in a vehicle. while North Bay Police had 10 members of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and a regular officer.

Const. Stacy Jackson says BAYSAR has been "vital" over the years in searching for missing people.

"For us, searching for missing people, time is of the essence. We want to find the missing person in the shortest amount of time in the best possible condition. Project Lifesaver cuts the time down immensely."

Without the device Jackson says they could be into hours and maybe days before a rescue is made.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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