There are a number of families within the district of Algoma, and other districts right across this country, working through the chaos, that can come with a diagnosis for dementia or Alzheimer’s. In the pool of resources to support a family and individual with dementia, there is an important lifeline. Enter Sault Search and Rescue,and Project Lifesaver.
Randy Roy, President of Sault Search & Rescue (SSR) shared details about a technology, that could very well offer an individual given to wandering, a fighting chance for survival. Technology that has its’ roots in Ham Radio transmission.
Project Lifesaver is a global movement. Founder and CEO of Project Lifesaver International, is a retired Captain of the Chesepeake,Virginia Police Department, (33 yrs )Gene Saunders. He is currently the Chief of Search and Rescue for Chesapeake VA. Sheriff’s Office. Project Lifesaver has an impressive list of Board of Trustees, among them, Deputy Chief of Windsor Police Service, Richard Derus. He was instrumental in bringing Project Lifesaver to Canada in 2009.
Through a $6,000 grant from Trillium Foundation, Sault Search and Rescue was able to secure funding for the receivers necessary to bring Project Lifesaver to Algoma. A generous donation from a local law firm,Feiffel,Broadbent & Gulazzi, supported the acquisition of the transmitters. Bracelets are the tool that secures the transmitter. Randy Roy,SSR, who wrote the application to Trillium Foundation shared “Thunder Bay & Sault Ste. Marie are the only two northern Ontario districts to have Project Lifesaver as tools in Search & Rescue.” Randy also shared “Sault Search & Rescue is counted among the 2900 rescues worldwide supported by Project Lifesaver.” In 2012, with the initial funding secured, Sault Search & Rescue purchased and began training for Project Lifesaver. From 2013 – 2015, 16 clients have now been fitted with wrist bracelets. These bracelets are water-proof,securely fastened, and act as a ‘honing beacon’ for searchers. The bracelets, fitted with a transmitter, operating on a radio frequency unique to each individual bracelet, is part of the story. There is a long range (gray) or short range (yellow) transmitter. Randy Roy said “We are starting to get away from the short term transmitters.” He further said “The geography of the District of Algoma creates challenges for rescuers, and it makes more sense to outfit a person with the long-range transmitter.” Randy went on to demonstrate the technology. The long range transmitter is good for locating an individual up to 3 kilometers.
Once a client is fitted with the bracelet, an ongoing checklist and regular battery replacement (every 2 months) becomes part of the strategy. “If a 911 call comes in to police” said Randy “Search and Rescue is dispatched by pager. A systematic operation begins. “The caregiver shares the distinctive radio frequency with police.” said Randy “There is no delay. Search and Rescue work with the police to get it right, and implement the protocol for Project Lifesaver.” The Search Master has everything at his/her disposal to shave off response time for search to commence. “30 -40 minutes can be critical minutes in survival outcomes for a vulnerable person.” Project Lifesaver is currently supporting both vulnerable seniors as well as autistic children. “Wandering and becoming lost, disoriented in cold weather is already a dangerous place to be.” shared Randy “Hypothermia actually tricks the brain into thinking that a body is hot, when in fact, it is the opposite. Searchers have found lost people by following discarded clothing. Randy spoke about a resource for people to research about hypothermia, ‘Cold Water Boot Camp’ http://www.coldwaterbootcamp.com/pages/home.html .
A Canadian original, Professor Popsicle, has been featured on several CBC Radio programmes,& television programmes like Rick Mercer. Sault Search and Rescue trains and trains some more. Cold water rescue is part of what volunteers undertake through Sault Search and Rescue. Randy shared “There is a 1 – 10 -1 rule for cold water survival . One minute of panic – ten minutes to get yourself saved – One hour to live. The sooner a person can stop panicking, the longer they have to sort out self-preservation.” offered Randy Roy.
The costs associated with getting a client fitted with a bracelet are marginal when considering the benefits. $350.00 (US funds) for transmitter bracelet, & a $10.00 fee for battery replacement. Batteries are replaced every 2 months. “We go out to the clients home every 60 days to change the battery, and do an inspection/test to ensure all is working with the transmitter.” said Randy. “We bring the receiving equipment with us to check that all components are working.” Caregivers of a client wearing the bracelet complete a daily check of the battery and record it. All equipment for Project Lifesaver comes through the United States. “Customs and duty are part of the process “ said Randy.
Sault Search & Rescue were doing training exercises with Project Lifesaver on the evening of January 29th. The large black receivers are wired right to the Search and Rescue vehicle. After a checklist has been completed with military precision, the Rescue vehicle starts on the carefully plodded route at no more than 40 kms/hr. “In speeds higher than 40 kms/hr, the radio frequency won’t be picked up.” said Randy. Rescuers are listening for a distinctive ‘chirp’ that is emitted from the bracelet transmitter.
Randy Roy shared “The Autism Foundation funds autistic children for Project Lifesaver bracelets.” Randy went on to say “With vulnerable populations, it is important to make the call to 911”. further, “Search and Rescue would rather stand down from an emergency call, than to be too late” Survival in cold temperatures, rugged Algoma wilderness, city landscapes, traffic mayhem can be exponentially increased by outfitting a vulnerable person with Project Lifesaver.
Sault Search and Rescue is hoping to secure more funding to expand Project Lifesaver. Volunteers undergo rigorous training on an ongoing basis. “Like-minded people are always welcome to join Sault Search and Rescue” said Randy. “Volunteers are the life-blood of Search and Rescue divisions everywhere.” Randy Roy encourages people to consider volunteering for Search and Rescue.”There are any number of competencies that our training provides citizens”.
It goes without saying that a highly skilled Search and Rescue Unit for the District of Algoma is a bonus for the community. Randy Roy and the dedicated volunteers of Sault Search and Rescue are really quite remarkable. Randy Roy is available to come and visit a community group, faith community, school, and more to share information about Project Lifesaver. You know where to find him. Thank you Sault Search and Rescue…You are extraordinary people.
The Project Lifesaver website http://www.projectlifesaver.org/ offers links and information about issues specific to individuals who are at an increased risk of wandering. Those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, autistic children and vulnerable populations around the world.
Sault Search and Rescue is hosting a fundraising event as part of Bon Soo festivities. On Saturday,Feb.7th at Comfort Suites, Great Northern Rd, a YukYuk comedy tour event will be showcased. Doors open at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $35.00.