Lifesaver project gets help from SHS students
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA — A life-saving program will likely be coming to Sylacauga in a matter of weeks thanks to a donation from a local school club.

Sylacauga High School’s Future Business Leaders of America presented the Alabama State Trooper Aviation Unit with a $5,500 donation Thursday to support Project Lifesaver, a program that helps to quickly locate those prone to wander because of Alzheimer’s, autism or other cognitive conditions.

Project Lifesaver equips patients with transmitter bracelets that send a signal to a receiver, allowing safety officials to locate a missing person within 15 to 30 minutes, compared to the average search time of 9 hours without a bracelet.

The Sylacauga Police Department, which has responded to about 130 calls for missing Alzheimer’s patients since 2008, began training to implement the program in July, and FBLA’s hefty donation will go a long way to make the much-needed community service a reality, said State Trooper Cpl. Kent Smith.

“We’re going to purchase all the equipment they need with this money,” he said. “In fact, I’ll probably order it today. We’ll position those bracelets and antennas with (Police Chief Chris Carden), and they can start taking applications soon after.”

Students raised the money at a 5K run/walk in September. It will go toward purchasing two antennas, a supply of bracelets and a one-year supply of batteries.

Each bracelet costs about $300, but will be provided at no cost to those in need as long as supplies allow. It must be worn at all times and the battery replaced about once a month.

If a person with a bracelet goes missing, law enforcement will begin a search at their home or last known location. The bracelet will “ping” off an antenna and lead police directly to their location. If the person wanders outside the ground range of the antenna, State Aviation can locate the signal by helicopter. The program’s improved bracelets have an average working range of 7-10 miles.

“We went up in the air the other day and picked it up from 12 miles,” Smith said. “So, a person could roam anywhere in Sylacauga, and we could pick them up.”

Of the 36,000 people who wander annually, 36 percent are never found. The Project lifesaver system, however, has a 100 percent success rate of locating those wearing a working bracelet.

For more information on Project Lifesaver, contact the State Aviation Unit at 334-242-4055.

© 2012