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Berkeley Co. implementing Project Lifesaver system

November 13, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A rapid response system that helps emergency responders track adults and children who tend to stray due to Alzheimer's disease, autism, Down syndrome and other conditions is being implemented in Berkeley County by the sheriff's department.

Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said he expects to have 19 deputies who can use the Project Lifesaver system after training wraps up this week.

The system involves the use of a bracelet that transmits an individualized radio signal that law enforcement personnel can pick up within a one-mile radius using receiver and antennae equipment.

The training and the sheriff's department's equipment was made possible through a grant from Greer Industries owners John and Elizabeth Raese of Morgantown, W.Va.

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Lemaster said community support is needed to fund the purchase of bracelets and batteries that keep them charged for individuals who are prone to wander from the safe confines of their home or elsewhere.

Adults with Alzheimer's disease and children with autism "for some unknown reason seem to gravitate toward water," New Martinsville, W.Va., Police Department Sgt. Dave Byers told those at the training session Monday. The transmitter on the bracelets can be tracked both underwater and underground, Byers said.

Members of the sheriff's department auxiliary also are taking part in the training this week and Lemaster hopes the department's support group will help with outreach efforts to increase community participation in the program.

When training is completed this week, a few deputies will be able to train other officers in the department and other area emergency responders, if they are willing to participate, Lemaster said.

Berkeley County is joining more than 20 other counties in West Virginia that are signed up to use the technology, which Lemaster said will result in significant savings in manpower and resources if a search needs to be conducted for an individual who is lost.

Sue Patalano, state coordinator of Project Lifesaver, said the families of about 1,300 people in Berkeley County could be helped with the tracking system.

Individuals and organizations interested in the Project Lifesaver program may contact the Berkeley County's Sheriff's Department at 304-267-7000 for more information or to make a contribution.

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