Police board gives Project Lifesaver the nod

Project fits people prone to wander with tracking devices to they can be found more quickly
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Published on: March 15, 2020 | Last Updated: March 16, 2020 4:41 PM EDT

An OPP officer aims a Project Lifesaver receiver, a directional antenna used to track people who wander due to dementia. Postmedia Network Photo

Project Lifesaver could be up and running in the North Bay area by the fall.

But Stan French, president of Baysar, says it will be slightly more costly than originally expected because of the beating the Canadian dollar has taken compared to the U.S. buck.

The North Bay Police Services Board agreed last week to get on board with the project.

The project involves fitting people prone to wander – people on the autism spectrum and those with Alzheimer’s disease – with tracking devices that will enable them to be found quickly.

“It’s wonderful,” French said of the police board’s decision. “They saw the benefit right from the beginning, but there were some questions that had to be answered before they could give it the green light.”

French approached the board in December seeking support for Project Lifesaver, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1999 in the United States. It has since been adopted by many police services in Canada, including in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

Caregivers can enrol loved ones in the program and provide information to the project – in this case Baysar – which shares the information with police searching for the missing person.

Those enrolled will be fitted with a wristwatch-sized transmitter that can be worn on either the wrist or ankle. Each transmitter has its own frequency, and can transmit up to a distance of five kilometres.

If the person wanders away, the family can call 911, where operators will pass on the pertinent information – including the frequency of the transmitter – to trained searchers.

According to the Project Lifesaver website, the service has successfully located and returned 3,652 people to loved ones.

Baysar would serve as the umbrella organization for the program locally, working with city police and the Ontario Provincial Police. As part of that, Baysar has became part of the Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association, the governing body for volunteer search and rescue teams in the province and serves as the liaison between the OPP, volunteer SAR teams and other emergency organizations.

Stan French

French said letters of intent must still be prepared and signed by North Bay police and Baysar to ensure all policies and procedures are in place “before we get up and running.”

As well, he said, fundraising efforts are in the works to raise the $23,000 necessary to purchase the necessary equipment.

Before the Canadian dollar’s slide, the price tag had been just under $22,000, he said.

But the Rotary Club of North Bay-Nipissing has already jumped in to assist, providing $4,500 for the program from proceeds from charity bingos at Blue Sky Bingo, where Baysar also does the bulk of its fundraising.

“So if there are any other service organizations that are looking for a good home for their proceeds, we would be quite happy to talk to them,” French said.

Initially, he says, the local Project Lifesaver will look to purchase 24 transmitters and three tracking devices.

He says the first batch of equipment necessary for training can be purchased by June, and “once the initial training is done we can start to get referrals from clients,” the Alzheimer Society and One Kids Place.

At the same time, French said, Baysar is looking for new members, both for Project Lifesaver and its regular operations assisting in search and rescue operations.

Those who volunteer for Project Lifesaver, he said, ideally will have skills working with people with special needs, such as retired nurses or health-care providers.

In his presentation to the police services board in December, French said families enrolled in the project could receive assistance in paying for the transmitter, which costs about $500 each.

On the web: Baysar.net

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