Project Lifesaver uses radio for rescue

October 09, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Deputy 1st Class Dan Watson was "found" Friday morning in Hagerstown's City Park by a search party using Project Lifesaver antennae to hone in on his location.

Watson, who was playing the part of a missing person, and the law enforcement officers who found him, were taking part in a demonstration of Project Lifesaver. The program uses radio transmitters and receivers to locate and rescue program participants.

It's designed for people who have a diagnosed cognitive disorder, said Lynn Deibert, the Project Lifesaver coordinator for Washington County. In Washington County, the devices are used by autistic children, people with Down Syndrome and Alzheimer's patients.

She runs the program through Many Individuals Helping Individuals (MIHI).

Project Lifesaver was first used in Washington County on Sunday, when a 71-year-old woman of "diminished capacity" walked away from her home in the first block of East Baltimore Street around 10 a.m.


Deibert and Washington County Sheriff's Department Lt. Art Overcash went up in a Maryland State Police helicopter to assist in the search for the woman, who was wearing a Project Lifesaver transmitter on her ankle when she was reported missing. From the helicopter, there is a five-to-seven-mile range of transmission between the device and search antennae.

People can walk at a rate of about four miles per hour, and the woman had been missing for about four hours before her absence was reported to police, Overcash said.

In situations like that, going up in a helicopter first allows searchers to narrow down a missing person's location.

The antennae picked up the signal of her device just as troopers on the ground spotted the woman, Overcash said.

People from the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Hagerstown Police Department and Washington County Fire and Emergency Services have all been trained in using the Project Lifesaver equipment.

For more information about Project Lifesaver, or to volunteer, call 240-520-0333 or 301-745-6444.

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