Project Lifesaver is an innovative rapid response program aiding victims and families suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related disorders such as Downs Syndrome and Autism. Clients that are enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal.
The main goal of Project Lifesaver is to locate and rescue missing persons. The Project Lifesaver International Headquarters has established partnerships with many local law enforcement agencies like Horry County to help save money and time for taxpayers, in addition to partnerships that strengthen awareness of their technologies and services.
Project Lifesaver is a national project that was originally established in 1999 by the Chesapeake, Virginia Sheriff's Office and the 43rd Virginia Search and Rescue Company. The program is now in over 40 states and Canada. Horry County is the first county to become a certified Project Lifesaver agency in South Carolina.
How do we find loved ones?
Project Lifesaver deploys specially trained teams with the most reliable technology available to quickly locate and return wandering adults and children to their families and caregivers. Clients enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal. When caregivers notify the local Project Lifesaver agency that the person is missing, a search and rescue team responds to the wanderer's area and starts searching with the mobile locater tracking system. Search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. In over 2,700 searches, there have been no reported serious injuries or deaths. Recovery times average less than 30 minutes.
Horry County's Innovation and Partnerships
Horry County was approached by the Horry County Autism Advocate Foundation to sponsor this program, which requires local law enforcement agencies to manage the program. The Autism Foundation conducted a survey among its members and found that safety and security was one of the top concerns parents faced. We accepted the program with open arms and began immediately to implement this lifesaving endeavor for autistic individuals.
We worked closely with the Autism Advocate Foundation and the National Project Lifesaver Association to gather information and to assist in the implementation of the program locally. Horry County is the first county in the state to establish this program. The Myrtle Beach Police Department is a full partner in our program, and we cover the entire area of our county as one search team. The program has also expanded to the City of Myrtle Beach. This will be a huge benefit to the many retirees that relocate to our areas.
Our goal is to have a tracker bracelet placed on every eligible, at-risk person in Horry County to better the odds in our favor in the event they become lost. We assist families with their financial burden by providing this program free if at all possible. To date, no County tax funds have gone towards the purchase of equipment.
Helping Our Community
If you do not have an autistic child or someone affected by Alzheimer's, then this program is probably is not that significant, but if you do, it is priceless. We have all seen on the news how communities come together when someone, especially a child goes missing. Search parties are organized and numerous public safety officials are deployed to locate the individual. Statistics show that the average cost for a law enforcement search is $1500.00 per hour. The chances of finding a person unharmed or alive drops to 50% after 24 hours. When a lost individual turns up dead, the whole community mourns. So in a way we benefit as a community with this innovative program, which pledges to assist those individuals that are most vulnerable. All citizens will benefit from the search cost reduction and something positive being done for their neighbors.
We have partnered with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and they currently have 10 wristbands available to offer tourists with autistic children during their stay along our coast. This program not only touches those in Horry County, but also reaches over 13 million tourists who vacation in our area every year. So far this year we have had ten visiting families who were Project Lifesaver clients who we made each feel safer and secure.
Our County's Training and Progress
Project Lifesaver program in Horry County has been fully implemented, however to-date we have not had to deploy our teams.
Forty-five public safety officials have been trained to use the mobile locator tracking system. These public safety officials have also been trained on the disease, which is the result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain. Training also included methods in how to approach an autistic child or an Alzheimer's patient since each of these diseases deals with reasoning, social interaction and communication differently. These disorders make it hard for these at risk individuals to communicate and relate to others. They may resist changes in routine, exhibit body movements (hand flapping, rocking, etc.) and have unusual responses to people or attachment to objects. Sometimes aggressive or self-injurious behavior occurs.
Horry County has purchased the equipment required to implement the program, along with additional equipment to provide adequate response to cover the entire 1,300 square miles of our county. We are committed to providing our Autism and Alzheimer's community with the most up-to-date technology and response. We have established our Autistic clients and are now working with the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association to implement client participation and awareness.
How it Works
With this program, individuals wear a radio-transmitting wristband and if they go missing, they can be tracked on ground or by air over several miles once 911 is called. 911 keeps all of the important identifying information on the child in their database and this information is constantly updated with the assistance of the families who have registered to be in the program and through the Autism Advocate Foundation.
By entering into the program, the family agrees to test the battery daily and change the battery every 30 days. These families are then entered into the county's Computer Aided Dispatch Center so their home addresses are flagged in our 911 system if and when one of these children become missing. The system allows for them to be protected wherever they may be, at home, at school or at play.
The program saves lives, has a 100% success rate, and has surpassed the 2,700th rescue milestone. As you can see, the program works! Individuals interested in enrolling in the programming may contact Kris Leonhardt: LeonharB@horrycounty.org.
We have been fortunate enough to receive grant money to help fund this project, and we will continue to seek grant money to expand Project Lifesaver and keep it functioning. We also have received donations from concerned groups and individuals. We are aware of the financial burden on families with Autistic children and Alzheimer's patients so we are making every effort to provide the tracking bracelets and support free. We have been able to accomplish this by the support and generosity of our citizens and our community.
To make a donation, please contact our Project Manager, Kris Leonhardt at 843-915-8002 or LeonharB@horrycounty.org