Sheriff’s Office expands Project Lifesaver Program
Earlier this month, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office expanded it’s participation in the Project Lifesaver Program with the recruitment and training of four additional search team members.
The Sheriff’s Office is entering into it’s sixth year of participation in the international program, operated by public safety agencies and strategically designed for “at risk” individuals who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering. The primary mission of Project Lifesaver is to bring loved ones home by providing a timely response to save lives, and reduce potential injury for adults and children, with the propensity to wander due to a cognitive condition.
As Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver program head Lieutenant Tim Fischer explains, following a recruitment process; two patrol deputies and two correctional officers were selected to undergo the necessary training to expand the Lincoln County Project Lifesaver team.
“The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office joined the Project Lifesaver Program in 2013. The program is designed and dedicated to bringing loved ones home who have cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimers Disease, Downs Syndrome and autism, and have a history of wandering. Our program began with the interest of a few former Correctional Sergeant Jolena Davies who had researched the program and felt it would be beneficial to the sheriff’s office. Former Sheriff Jeff Jaeger saw value in the program and approved Sergeant Davies and I to attend training in Chippewa Falls,” Fischer explains. “From 2013 through last year, Sergeant Davies and I headed the program. It wasn’t long after the program began, that we started receiving interest from clients to participate in the program. Our client base quickly grew to seven individuals from around Lincoln County.”
When Davies moved on from the Sheriff’s Office last year, Fischer requested to expand the team.
Certification for the new team members began last week, requiring 16 hours of training. The certification process includes hands-on training and familiarization with transmitters and receivers utilized in the event of a client search, as well as a practical exam requiring each team member to locate three client transmitters within a 15 minute time frame. In addition to the initial 16 hour certification training curriculum, team members must undergo re-certification every two years.
To date, the Lincoln County Project Lifesaver team has yet to have been called upon for a client search. However, if and when a search is needed, the process is very specific.
Initiating a search for a client begins with a call to the Lincoln County E-911 Communications Center; indicating a client has wandered away. Dispatchers in the center then contact the certified Project Lifesaver team members to respond to the location. Information is gathered such as the client’s last known whereabouts, direction of travel, clothing worn and time of last contact. Using information provided by dispatchers, search team members program the frequency assigned to the client’s transmitter, into their hand-held receivers and the search begins.
“The range of our receivers is approximately half a mile,” Fischer adds. “Our initial search begins with a scan of a half-mile radius. If the first scan is unsuccessful, the search team expands the radius further in half-mile increments until the client is located. The national average for a search os approximately 30 minutes. In many cases, clients are located much sooner.”
To date, 49 agencies state-wide participate in the Project Lifesaver Program.
For more information, Lieutenant Fischer can be reached at (715) 536-6272.