PJ Wilson Publishing date:Oct 27, 2021 • 6 days ago • 3 minute read •
All were found within minutes of the search starting.
“For us, time is of the essence,” Const. Stacy Jackson, of the police Emergency Response Team and search manager in an exercise Wednesday, said.
“We want to find that person in the shortest possible time.”
Wednesday’s exercise, involving 11 members of the ERT and about half a dozen from Baysar Air Search and Rescue, was conducted under ideal conditions. It was sunny, mild and dry.
But in the middle of night in February, Jackson said, it’s a whole different ball game.
“In Northern Ontario, weather is going to be a factor,” Jackson said. “In the middle of the night in February, finding a person within 30 minutes is extremely vital.”
Wednesday’s exercise, assisted by a Cessna 172 flown by members of Baysar, lasted about an hour.
Jackson said that when a person is reported missing, the call usually comes in within minutes. The scenario for Wednesday’s exercise was that the missing person – in this case a member of Baysar – wasn’t reported missing for about 90 minutes.
In that time, Stan French, Baysar president and the driving force behind the local Project Lifesaver, a person could walk about nine kilometres from where he or she was last seen.
The search aircraft was able to narrow down the search area quickly, the Project Lifesaver receivers picking up the lost person’s wristband receiver quickly and directing the ground search teams to the right area.
“Here we had 10 or so people with four receivers,” French said.
Without the high-tech help, there could easily be a hundred people searching in ever-widening circles.
The exercise, he said, is a chance to have police and Baysar working together to find the “missing client.”
So far, there are 23 people with the transmitting bracelet in the North Bay-West Nipissing area. Most have been referred by the Alzheimer Society or One Kid’s Place.
In the cases where Project Lifesaver had to spring into action locally, the results have been “wonderful,” French says.
In December, a person wandered away from home. Once the equipment was set up, it took five minutes to find the person.
Over the weekend, another incident lasted about 10 minutes, while the third, over the summer, ended as the command post was being set up when a member of the public found and identified the missing person.
Across North America, the average search time is under 30 minutes.
Project Lifesaver is a non-profit organization 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.
The project involves fitting people prone to wander — including people on the autism spectrum and those with Alzheimer’s disease or suffering from dementia — with tracking devices that will enable them to be found quickly.
Caregivers can enrol their loved ones in the program and provide information about them — in this case to BAYSAR — which is then shared with police should the client go missing.
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.
BAYSAR is the Project Lifesaver lead agency for the area, with the North Bay police and Ontario Provincial Pollice responsible for the initial emergency response when a client is reported missing. BAYSAR would then become the supporting agency during an emergency response.
French said that while most clients are referred by the Alzheimer Society and One Kids Place, “any family that has a member who is a high risk to wander” can contact Baysar for more information.