VALPARAISO | “Ping, ping ping.”
The Project Lifesaver tracking device sent radio signals from the wrist band attached to Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas to the locating device held by Porter County Sheriff’s Department Capt. George Gonzalez as a group of emergency response personnel followed the sound throughout Valpo’s downtown on Thursday morning.
The cat-and-mouse game was a way to show care providers and emergency personnel the capabilities of the system, which has been offered in Porter County since 2006 but currently only has 12 users.
“We think of people who wander away, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia and this is an insurance policy to get them home safely,” Sheriff David Lain said.
He said that Project Lifesaver has nationally logged more than 2,700 saves with not one injury, which is meaningful when it comes to these types of rescues.
“When a Project Lifesaver bracelet is not involved there is a tremendous expenditure of resources from emergency departments and many times the rescue doesn’t end well,” he said, noting a client who uses the system is typically found within 30 minutes.
Costas was found after only about 15 minutes in the parking lot of the old jail.
“I think the fact that I got three blocks away and was found quickly shows the effinciency of the program,” Costas said.
Lain said that the range of the device is about two to five miles but up to a 10 mile radius for air patrol.
“When we get a call from a caregiver to 911, we dispatch our teams to go to the last place the person was seen. They then circle the geographic area until they pick up a signal. The program has been used for a number of years but we feel it is being underutilized,” he said.
The Project Lifesaver program was initially started with a donation and has continued to operate with donations, Lain said, although the bracelet devices cost around $300 each.
“We always give a new client one of those transmitters free of charge. If there is not a financial burden to the client we ask them to pay for the next client to receive one, so there is a pay-it-forward system,” said Lain, who added his department funds the monthly costs associated with the program.
For more information. visit www.portertriad.com or the Porter County Sheriff’s website.