NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Two Norfolk residents are back home and safe, thanks to a group of Norfolk Sheriff’s deputies and a tracking machine.
The machine is part of Project LifeSaver, and on Friday alone it helped track down two people within minutes of each other.
Project Lifesaver is a search and rescue program operated internationally by public safety agencies, and is strategically designed for “at risk” individuals who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering.
Its primary mission is 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, according to its website.
Those enrolled wear a wrist watch-sized radio transmitter on their wrist or ankle. When that person goes missing, their loved one or caregiver can alert the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office and deputies respond to the area where the transmitter’s signal was tracked.
According to the sheriff’s office, the device led to two successful rescues in just one day.
The first call came in Friday around 3 p.m. from a concerned mother who said that her son with autism got upset and left the house without a phone.
According to the sheriff’s office, that young man could have ended up in grave danger, but he wore a Project LifeSaver bracelet and deputies were able to ping it, locating him walking along railroad tracks.
However, the story does not stop there.
While deputies were responding to the search for the young man, they received a call from an elderly man that his wife, who has dementia, walked off while they were shopping at the MacArthur Center mall.
She also could have wandered far, into a dangerous area or traffic, but because of her bracelet she was reunited with her husband.
According to the sheriff’s office’s spokesperson, in 2018 the City of Norfolk had 32 successful searches, and in 2019 there have already been five successful searches in the city.
Master Deputy Terry Reed leads the Project LifeSaver team through the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office.
“I think I was sent for this position, I feel like I was led to this position,” said Master Deputy Reed. “It’s a rewarding job to reunite loved ones.”
If you are a resident of Norfolk, for $10 a month you will receive a personalized radio transmitter to place on your loved one.
If they wander away, you can call deputies to help find them. It usually takes deputies about a half hour to find a lost person wearing a radio transmitter. These devices, about the size of a wrist-watch, emit a signal for about a half mile radius that is used to track the device, according to the sheriff’s office.
Links to resources:
Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Project LifeSaver: https://norfolk-sheriff.com/index.php/about/divisions/project-lifesaver
Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Virginia Chapter website: https://www.alz.org/seva/
MedicAlert + Safe Return: https://www.alz.org/care/dementia-medic-alert-safe-return.asp
The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline is: 1-800-272-3900.