Project Lifesaver in Ottawa County is growing in use throughout the county.
The program has helped locate individuals who may not be able to find their own way home.
According to Carolyne Gilchrist, Project Lifesaver coordinator, individuals and caregivers in the county have already benefited from the program.
“We had one gentleman last August who was recovered within 37 minutes,” Gilchrist said. “We had just signed him up for the program. When we were leaving his house, his wife said they would probably never use the program. Later that week, he was a missing person.”
Ottawa County has offered Project Lifesaver since August of 2005. The county, at that time, was the first in Northwest Ohio to become involved in the now national program.
Gilchrist’s own granddaughter Amber, was the first person in the county to receive the transmitter.
“I found out about the program when my granddaughter, Amber, who is autistic, became a missing person in Medina County,” Gilchrist said. “That was nine years ago and she is still wearing the transmitter.”
Project Lifesaver uses a passive ID wristband designed to help locate a person with dementia or developmental disabilities including autism. The ID wristband includes a one-ounce battery-operated radio wrist transmitter that emits an automatic tracking signal every second, 24 hours a day.
The signal can be tracked over several miles on the ground by members of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office or from the air by helicopter from Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, UTMC and St. Rita’s Life Flight/Mobile Life.
Each wrist band has a unique radio frequency, Gilchrist said. The frequency enables the Project Lifesaver search team to positively locate and identify a person who has wandered away from home or a care facility using a specially designed radio receiver.
“Search team members are trained on how to approach a person with Alzheimer’s disease or a developmental disability,” Gilchrist said. “They are trained on how to gain trust with the person so they do not back away or run from them.”
Using the Project Lifesaver technology, search teams have reduced the time it takes to locate a missing person from hours or even days to only minutes. The average time to find someone is 30 minutes, Gilchrist said.
Ottawa County Project Lifesaver is a non-profit program sponsored by the Port Clinton Lions Club, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, and other agencies as well as by private donations, Gilchrist said.
The program received a generous and anonymous individual donation as well as a $2,000 donation from the Oak Harbor Rotary Club and the Oak Harbor Lions Club donated $2,000 to be used for more transmitters.
The Ottawa County Board of Mental Disabilities has also provided Gilchrist with an office and has donated flyers and other materials to the program.
The program currently has15 transmitters in use, with 12 children and three adults enrolled in the program.
“The transmitter is free, but we do ask for a $10 monthly donation for the battery,” she said. “If someone is unable to afford that, they will still get a transmitter. We will not turn someone away.”
The batteries are changed monthly, Gilchrist said. Ottawa County Sheriff’s Deputy Bud Chasteen visits the homes monthly to change the battery and to check on the participants and their caregivers.
There is no contract to sign and individuals can try the program for a month to see if they like it. Those who decide to not use the program can return the transmitter with no questions asked, Gilchrist said.
To learn more about Project Lifesaver, call Carolyne Gilchrist at 419-898-3679. For more information about Project Lifesaver or to find a complete list of where the service is offered, visit http://projectlifesaver.org.
Riverview Industries Imagine Art artists Marissa N., Jacob B and Raysha W. present a banner they created for Project Lifesaver.