AP NEWS

Beaver Dam implements program to help find lost or missing

December 18, 2018
A transmitter like the one in the photo would be worn like a watch or around the ankle of a person enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program. The transmitter battery would be checked every two months by PLS-trained first responders.

Members of Beaver Dam Police Department and Fire Department completed a training program this week in order to offer Project Lifesaver to Beaver Dam residents.

“It is very important program that will better help us serve the community,” Beaver Dam Police Department Sgt. Erik Smedema said. “Project Lifesaver is geared toward assisting individuals in the community that have a tendency to wander. This is very helpful with individuals with autism, Down syndrome and other disorders, whether young or old. With the aging population, dementia and Alzheimer’s have become a bigger issue with those individuals tending to wander off. With Project Lifesaver, caretakers are able to keep loved ones at home.”

Although not widely used in the area, it also is available through the Dodge and Columbia County Sheriff’s Offices.

The client wears a transmitter with its own frequency, Smedema said. Public safety workers then use a receiver to listen and as they get closer the chirping will get louder until the individual is found.

“It is also a good way to get our officers and fire department personnel out into the community,” Smedema said. “Every 60 days, we will go in and change the battery and band on the client. This will build important bonds between our departments and the individuals we serve.”

The program normally allows people to be found within 30 minutes, Smedema said.

Project Lifesaver Instructor Tim Caldwell has been working with the program since 2007 while he was employed at the Licking (Ohio) County Sheriff’s Office.

The training involves education on the different disorders that cause people to wander, such as autism and Alzheimer’s.

“We get training on how to approach and best work with individuals who have a tendency to wander,” Smedema said. “It includes training on how to implement procedures and guidelines within our agency. We get training on how to use the tracking equipment. The instructor sets up scenarios and we use the tracking equipment to go out and find the transmitter. We need to pass a written test and be able to show we are proficient to use the tacking equipment to find someone if needed to be certified as a electronic search specialist.”

Smedema said he is one of four Beaver Dam police officers trained in the program, along with three Beaver Dam firefighters.

“All are from different shifts so that if we need to search for someone, we should have someone trained in PLS working to save time,” Smedema said. “These seven will then be certified as trainers and will be able to train others in each department. We decided to partner with the fire department because if someone wandered, they would be assisting us with a search anyway.”

Smedema said that the police department was able to raise $10,000 for the program, and he has heard of some interest from throughout the area. Each transmitter costs about $300, with continued costs for new batteries and new bands.

“There is no set cost at this time, but we will not turn anyone away who is unable to pay,” Smedema said. “We will rely on donations and fundraisers to help sustain the program.”

Clients must have 24/7 observation because the caretaker must be able to call 911 if they wander off. They must also check the battery each day and keep a log. Clients must meet the requirements and fill out an application to be enrolled in Project Lifesaver.

“With Project Lifesaver, we can give caretakers and loved ones piece of mind that we will be able to find their love ones quickly if they would wander off,” Smedema said.

People can contact Smedema for more information at esmedema@bdpd.org or 887-4613 ext. 513.

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