Project Lifesaver – Bringing Loved Ones Home

Project Lifesaver bracelet
By: Paula Green

April is “Autism Awareness” month and during this observance, we bring you the latest developments in assisting those with autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia, intellectual disabilities and other special needs.   Law enforcement and other emergency responders have a powerful tracking system available that helps bring your loved ones home.  “Project Lifesaver” is a program offered in 41 states and it is a wonderful means of locating and rescuing those that wander.  Fortunately, this tool is available here in Allegheny County.

Persons enrolled in this program wear a small transmitter, about the size of a wristwatch, which emits a unique tracking signalsignal.  If a person goes missing, search teams use their signal receiving equipment to track and locate the missing person.project lifesaver logo

“These tracking devices work on radio signals, not GPS signals.  Radio signals give you a more precise location and are subject to less external interferences between the transmitter bracelet and the receivers used by the police officers,” explained deputy district attorney, Tom Swan.

“Currently, 50 families have signed up to participate in Project Lifesaver from Allegheny County.  Forty officers from 16 police departments have been certified to operate the tracking devices.  The trained police departments from the North Hills are: Northern Regional, Ross, Ohio, Indiana and Harrison.

The Chiefs of Police, from those respective jurisdictions, have agreed to allow their certified officers to track lost persons registered in the program in neighboring jurisdictions covering the entire North Hills area.  The same goes for the other three quadrants of Allegheny County.  The Chiefs with the trained officers can track outside their respective jurisdictions as well.  The city is on board too, but due to the recent change in administration, they will require additional officers to be trained in each zone before the program will be up and running with the city of Pittsburgh,” Swan added.

“Each department was given one receiver to track with and they will obtain another one in the near future to better ensure shift coverage.  All caregivers enrolled in the program have been logged in with the Allegheny County 911 Center with information specific to the person wearing the transmitter bracelet and its unique frequency.  When a call comes into the center, all certified officers get an automatic page, as do I and one of my assistants.  Everyone will try to respond, with the jurisdiction (closest to the callout location) responding first, generally,” Swan explained.

“The bracelets cost about $300 each.  The receivers cost about $1,500 apiece.  All of the costs have been borne by the DA’s office with drug forfeiture money, not taxpayer’s money.   The transmitter bracelets are water resistant and work up to about seven feet of water, so they can be worn in pools, bathtubs and showers,” noted Swan.

Persons residing in group homes or who operate motor vehicles are not permitted to enroll in this program.  To learn more about Project Lifesaver in Allegheny County, call 412 350-3138.