Difference Makers: Local law enforcement agencies partnering with organization to ‘bring loved ones home.’

CENTRAL —  There is more than one way to save lives, and a few local law enforcement agencies have partnered with a non-profit organization devoted to “bringing loved ones home.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Central Fire Department, and West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office have all partnered with Project Lifesaver over the last few years.

Project Lifesaver, which was founded in 1999, is a community-based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, and caregivers with a program designed to protect and, when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering.

The drowning death of a 4-year-old boy in Watson recently has shined more light on programs like Project Lifesaver.

“We started with Project Lifesaver in 2015,” said Central Assistant Fire Chief Derek Glover. “A lady who had an autistic child in the community reached out and wanted to know more information about the program. She went through Project Lifesaver, and we became an agency that has the tracking devices, and we would respond if the person went missing.”

The company’s method relies on radio technology and specially trained search and rescue teams. People enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small transmitter on the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized frequency signal. If the client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area. The first responders will then use the client’s individualized frequency to find the person.

Since 2015, Glover said they’ve had one or two searches.

“One of the clients on the program went missing, and we located him in an apartment complex,” Glover said. “Other than those one or two times, we haven’t had many of our clients go missing.”

Glover said Central Fire has two clients who use the equipment in the area.

Capt. Chad Parker with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office said the agency had been working with Project Lifesaver for over five years, but they have yet to have to locate any clients.

“We’ve been really blessed,” Parker said. “We haven’t had to use them.”

For people who are interested in using the equipment, Glover advised them to go to Project Lifesaver’s website.

“The individual deals directly with Project Lifesaver,” he explained. “The individual has to buy the equipment and the batteries, and then once they are in the system and we are notified, they send us the bands and the batteries, and it’s up to the department that responds to change the battery. The batteries are good for 60 days. We make the client come here, we change them, and then test the device every time the battery is changed to ensure it’s still functioning like it’s supposed to. We don’t charge anything.”

Glover said several devices are capable of helping people. He said it’s up to each person to decide which device suits them.

“If somebody has a loved one that may have autism, or a child or an elderly parent that may have dementia and start to wander, it would be a good program to have,” he said. “It just depends on your specific needs and what you think is best for your situation, whether you use this Project Lifesaver program, a GPS device, or an Apple Air Tag. All of the devices are beneficial. You just have to decide which one you want to go with.”

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