'Major game-changer': Bracelet helps rescue crews locate missing people
VANCOUVER -- Anybody at risk of wandering off and getting lost should wear a bracelet that helps track them, according to a long-time search and rescue volunteer.
Sean Magnusson has been volunteering with search and rescue groups for more than two decades. In the past eight years, he’s also been working with a non-profit organization called Project Lifesaver.
The technology is straightforward: the person wears a tiny transmitter, the size of a watch face, and a radio frequency is sent out that gets picked up by a receiver.
The receiver makes a beeping noise, letting crews know which direction the missing person went.
“As long as we're told right away that the person's missing, we can get out there quickly before the person gets that far away and we'll find them,” Magusson said. “We’ve tracked people all over the place.”
He said the radio frequency can get picked up from almost anywhere: on the SkyTrain, on a bike, down a canyon and even up in the air.
“It's a game changer, a major game changer,” Magnusson said. “In the past, when we don't have somebody with a bracelet on, it requires an awful lot of manpower.”
Now, as long as the missing person is wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet, they can be found quickly, saving time and resources.
In the Lower Mainland, South Fraser Search and Rescue is the only agency with the radio receiver, and it is often called to help other local SAR groups.
Earlier this month, the crews were able to locate someone wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet within an hour.
“So far, there's been about 3,680 searches throughout North America – and all of them have been successful,” Magnusson said.
He said the bracelet is recommended for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive conditions, as well as basically anyone prone to wandering off.
Mary Francis said it’s been a “saving grace” since she first learned about Project Lifesaver.
Her daughter, 25-year-old Alysha, has Down syndrome and tends to leave and get lost.
Alysha left on her own multiple times once she started elementary school, and it got worse when she was in high school, Francis said.
Once she started wearing the bracelet, it gave the family an enormous sense of relief.
“It is a lifesaver; it gives me peace of mind,” Francis said. “It's always been a worrisome thing, for the fact that she's non-verbal, she doesn't talk and she's very trusting.”
The initial cost of the transmitter is US$375. There is also a US$25 fee each month for maintenance and a battery replacement.
Families also have the option of purchasing a receiver and a device that alerts them when their loved one has left the home.
Magnusson and Francis believe if more people knew about Project Lifesaver, crews would be able to bring more people home safely.
“These things are a godsend. They’re not expensive at all. For a person’s life, it’s well worth it,” Francis said.