Mille Lacs adopts Project Lifesaver program

brent device

Mille Lacs County has signed onto the Project Lifesaver program, which uses electronic tracking equipment to help locate lost individuals with disorders.

To make this work, the lost person has to be wearing a special electronic bracelet that transmits its own FM frequency signal to a mobile hand-held receiver that deputiescheck from a squad car..

Project Lifesaver is a international  nonprofit program founded in 1998 and assists agencies such as sheriff’s department in establishing its program in their localities.

The action that the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners took regarding the program on Nov. 5 was to approve Sheriff Brent Lindgren’s request to set up an account that the public can donate to for assisting in funding the program.

Lindgren explained that for a family to have a member wear one of the Project Lifesaver bracelets, it would cost $300 the first year, and $120 per year thereafter. But some families might not be able to afford that so the donation fund could be used to help those families with the cost, Lindgren said.

Lindgren obtained a $6,000 grant for the tracking equipment and for training some of the deputies in how to use the equipment to track persons wearing the bracelet.

People that might wear one of these bracelets would be ones with medical problems such as Alzheimers, certain degrees of autism, and Down syndrome. The idea is that someone with any of those conditions might leave their home and become lost or unaccounted for. Once called about the situation, deputies could take the two handheld devices and search an area within a seven-mile radius  to try to pick up the FM signal from the bracelet.

Lindgren showed  county board members a video before making the request to set up the account. The video depicted a child with an apparent medical problem having wandered away from home and how deputies with the Project Lifesaver equipment were able to find the boy sitting on a park bench.

The annual charge to a family helps cover maintenance costs such as an officer coming by monthly to check on the bracelet and change batteries.

“We think those who sign up will pay for the service,” but for those who can’t afford it, the donations account can help, Lindgren said. It could even be a business or an organization sponsoring a Project Lifesaver family, Lindgren said.

Lindgren told the board he could speak through personal experience about Alzheimers, explaining that a family member had it.

Lindgren expressed confidence in the Project Lifesaver equipment. He explained how he sent deputies out in a training drill to find a deputy wearing the bracelet. Deputies found the hidden deputy within 11-14 minutes each time.

Some persons such as those with autism could be skin sensitive to the point where they might not like to wear the bracelet on their wrist, so it can also be placed on the ankle, Lindgren noted.

County board chairman Phil Peterson asked how many lost-person calls the sheriff’s department gets each year.

“Thirty plus per year, and not necessarily of this nature,” Lindgren said, referring to the medical conditions he listed.  About a half dozen of the calls are about lost children, and during the instances of an extended search when a helicopter is brought in from St. Paul to help, that costs tens of thousands of dollars, Lindgren said.

A helicopter may have to be used to bring the Project Lifesaver mobile receiver up in the air if the lost person wearing the bracelet is in a very wooded area, Lindgren added.