Three area emergency response leaders recently received the newest equipment available to help those who could wander because of diseases.
Project Lifesaver International helps provide rapid response to save lives and reduce potential for serious injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other related conditions, said Cpl. Carl Finnerty, Project Lifesaver coordinator for the South Williamsport Police Department.
Finnerty provided the radar equipment to the Old Lycoming Township and Montgomery Borough police departments and the Loyalsock Township Fire Department. South Williamsport, Williamsport and Jersey Shore already have the equipment.
Participants in the project wear a transmitter the size of a watch on either their wrists or ankles. The transmitter in the band constantly sends a signal to its own radio frequency. If a person wearing a transmitter wanders away, the signal can be tracked by using the receiver, Finnerty said.
South Williamsport Police Department began looking for a way to better rescue people after the death of 9-year-old Logan Mitcheltree. He had a history of autism, which caused him to wander away from home.
In December 2004, Mitcheltree escaped the installed safety measures and walked away unnoticed by his family. After a massive search, he was found dead near the top of Bald Eagle Mountain. He died from hypothermia.
Since South Williamsport began to use Project Lifesaver in 2007, there have been 11 searches in the county. Everyone successfully was found and all under 40 minutes. The majority of the people were found in less than 13 minutes, Finnerty said.
Project Lifesaver has more than 1,200 participating agencies across the country, Canada and
Australia. Almost 2,500 searches have been performed in the last 11 years with no serious injuries or fatalities ever reported, according to the project's website.
In the area, 49 people use the transmitters and more are available.
Kurt Falco, of Loyalsock Township, was considered a flight risk by Hope Enterprises Inc.'s Early Learning Program, his mother, Katherine Falco, said. He was given one of the devices, which had to be used in September 2009.
"We couldn't find him," Katherine said. "The state police did as much as they could."
They searched for 1 1/2 hours until someone with a receiver could get on the scene. When the rescue team arrived, Kurt was located nine minutes later in a neighbor's house, watching TV.
"It's a great project," Katherine said. "It gives you peace of mind."
That peace of mind can be for parents who have children who could wander or for adult children who worry about their elderly parents, she said.
With the equipment being distributed to more communities, the time it takes to get someone with a transmitter on the scene will decrease, Finnerty said.
Batteries are changed monthly to ensure they properly work, but Katherine said she checks it daily.
The new equipment the departments received includes a radio receiver, headset, headphones, a vehicle-mounted antenna for vehicular searches, a power, a supply of extra batteries and bracelets and a spare transmitter.
In the future, Finnerty wants to continue the training and recertification to ensure that all of the responders who are certified remain so in case of an emergency.