Shelby County Sheriff's deputies wait for reports at the Project Lifesaver command post in Chelsea's Forest Park subdivision Aug. 8. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

Archived Story

Deputies train for Project Lifesaver

Published 7:11pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – Teams of Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies spread out across Chelsea’s Forest Park subdivision to practice locating missing persons as part of Project Lifesaver Aug. 8.

Project Lifesaver International provides equipment for law enforcement agencies to purchase. The equipment, which includes specialized antennae and radio transmitters, helps sheriff’s deputies locate residents enrolled in the program. The program currently serves 27 Shelby County residents, according to Project Coordinator Sgt. Clay Hammac.

To participate, Hammac said families apply and interview. If accepted into the program, the individual must be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or autism and must be under 24-hour care and wear a monitor bracelet, Hammac said.

Lt. Jeff Sciascia, who led the practice runs, said the batteries on the bracelets have to be changed every month, and the same deputy is assigned to a single family, if possible.

“It helps with young children with autism who are hesitant to meet and talk with a stranger,” he said.

Sciascia debriefed the practicing teams before they began hunting for the signal attached to their practice client. The teams worked in a triangulation method to narrow down the location.

“In optimal conditions, the transmitter would reach about a mile,” Sciascia said.

The teams used yagi antennae once they located the signal to determine which direction to travel.

One of the three teams located its target in less than an hour, radioing the find to the exercise’s command post.

Sciascia said the search always begins in the home where the person was last seen.

“We’ve had it happen that a child is missing and they’re hiding under the bed or sleeping in the closet,” Sciascia said.

Sciascia said the sheriff’s deputies volunteer for the program.

“They’re people who want to do it because they care about it,” Sciascia said. “All of the them go through training and are certified to be team members.”

The team members train quarterly with the equipment, Sciascia said.

Project Lifesaver is a free service to those who qualify in Shelby County, according to Sciascia, noting many other county sheriff’s departments charge families for the service.

“Nationally, Project Lifesaver has a 100 percent success rate,” Sciascia said.

For more information, visit Shelbyso.com and click the “Project Lifesaver” tab.

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