In 2003, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office spent nearly 30 hours and thousands of dollars in resources searching for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease who had wandered from her Zephyrhills home. Fortunately, she was located in good condition near her home, where she had locked herself in a neighbor’s shed and ignored calls from both her family and from searching deputies.
To prevent such incidents from reoccurring, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office initiated a new search-and-rescue program, called “Project Lifesaver,” that can quickly find wandering Alzheimer’s victims and other mentally-impaired individuals. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office conducts numerous searches every year for mentally-impaired victims and encourages their caregivers to look into the program.
Project Lifesaver is a proactive program that electronically tracks lost or wandering participants through the use of mall transmitters. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is equipped with receivers to track the transmitters, which are usually worn on the wrist like a watch. The PSO is the first in the Tampa Bay region to participate in this program and only the fourth in the state.
Project Lifesaver was established in Virginia in 1999 and has been implemented in law enforcement agencies across the country. The program has safely recovered more than 1,000 wanderers, with an average location time of 22 minutes. Tracking can be conducted by law enforcement personnel from both the air and the ground.
Costs for individuals to participate in the program is $390 for the first year, which includes a transmitter, a battery tester, and a year’s supply of batteries. After the first year, there is a yearly fee of $100 for the additional straps and batteries. For those caregivers who cannot afford the program’s costs, the PSO can help with obtaining assistance.
For more information about Project Lifesaver or to receive an application, contact Randy Schoneman, who is the Project Lifesaver Coordinator for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. His office phone number is (727)815-7119 and cell phone number is (727)277-7146.