Project Lifesaver Celebrates 10 Years in Community

International Program Hosted Locally by Wood County Helps Locate Lost At-Risk Individuals

As the premier search and rescue program operated internationally by public safety agencies, and being strategically designed for “at risk” individuals who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering, Project Lifesaver is celebrating ten years of helping communities worldwide, including right here in Wood County.

With the primary mission of Project Lifesaver to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children with the propensity to wander due to a cognitive condition, Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department is thankful to have the tools locally to utilize this program. Currently, an average of 30 individuals are using the program in the County.

A rescue program for Wood County’s most vulnerable individuals (including adults and children), Fire & Rescue personnel are all trained on how to use the tracking equipment in case of emergency.

“Families that benefit from this program are those that have autistic children, for example, or alzheimer’s and dementia patients that may not remember how to get home,” said Deputy Chief Craig DeGrand. “We just had a response about two weeks ago on an individual. We found him in 31 minutes.”

Similar to how bear hunters use tracking equipment with their hunting dogs, Project Lifesaver uses radio technology and frequencies to track an individual. Project Lifesaver involves an at-risk person wearing a bracelet around their wrist or ankle, which enables their location to be tracked with special search equipment.

With a proven record of locating lost loved ones in minutes or hours, Project Lifesaver provides reliable, practical, and affordable peace of mind for many.

When a family member loses an at-risk participant, they call 9-1-1 and inform dispatch that the missing person is a Project Lifesaver client. Special rescuers are dispatched with the tracking equipment necessary to find the individual, as well as that person’s individual frequency and a recent photo. They determine what the person was last wearing and where they were last seen, and the search begins. Sometimes, rescue staff will utilize Spirit helicopter or other air resources, as it is easier to track radio waves when in the air and away from interference.

To qualify, at-risk individuals require one-on-one, 24/7 supervision and they must have a diagnosed cognitive impairment that hinders their decision-making ability which puts them at risk of wandering and getting lost. The equipment is not designed to replace proper care, monitoring, and oversight of the at-risk person, but rather to provide assistance in case of emergency.

Cost to participants is a one-time transmitter cost of $235, plus a monthly fee of $25 to cover the cost of the transmitter band, replacement battery, and transmitter tester. For those unable to afford this, there are local community resources (such as grants) available to help.

Family members are responsible for checking the battery and transmitter at least once a day to ensure it is working, and the battery is replaced by a Project Lifesaver team member every month.

In its decade of existence, the technology of Project Lifesaver has evolved, but the goal has remained the same: find an at-risk person quickly to help ensure their safety.

“I’m glad we have them because we are able to locate someone’s loved one faster, quicker, so we can bring them home safely,” said DeGrand.

This week, a rescuer/client picnic is taking place in Pittsville, allowing participants on both sides (rescuer and participant) to meet and interact.

For more information, or to enroll, please contact: 715-389-0241 (for a child under age 18) or 715-421-0014 (for an adult 18 and older).

As a service that relies on community partnerships and donations, those interested can contribute to Project Lifesaver through checks made payable to Wood County Human Services-Project Lifesaver, 220 Third Avenue S, Suite 4, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495.