Sequim after a resident went missing during the dead of winter.
"The catalyst was we had a gentleman in town and he went with his wife to QFC. He had the beginnings of dementia. She let him go into the store and he wandered out the backdoor. Of course she got concerned, she goes in to find him, he's gone - uh-uh - it's wintertime, it's really cold, the sun's going down," recalled Sequim Chief of Police Robert Spinks.
"They notify us, we contact the fire department, we start doing an area search of the community and we can't find him. Well now the sun is going down, the temperatures are dropping. We're all getting concerned."
After an extensive search by volunteers and emergency staff, the man was found curled up under some bushes behind the supermarket. As the man explained later, when he entered the store he forgot why he was there and simply decided to leave.
"It's not like this doesn't - because of the demographic of our community - happen several times a year," Spinks said.
The lost man's family wanted to do something for other families in Sequim and the Clallam County Fire District 3 area that might one day be faced with similar circumstances. They used funds from a family foundation to bring Project Lifesaver to Sequim.
Project Lifesaver is an international program that helps searchers quickly locate missing persons with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, autism, Down syndrome or other disorders that cause disorientation or wandering.
"It literally it puts a radio band tag on high-risk people, folks who have dementia or who are suffering different medical conditions. When a person ends up being lost, well then we now have radio-tracking devices that zero in on them, so we find people like that," explained Spinks, snapping his fingers.
"It's of great use in communities like this because we have a significant population of potential walkaways who are in medical facilities. We also have a lot of folks who are still trying to live at home, but they're right on the verge. It's kind of a neat added benefit for a small town."
With funding from the foundation, the police department and fire district were able to purchase four Osprey receivers. People enrolled in the program wear a bracelet with a unique radio frequency. The receivers are able to detect the radio band's frequency, and through handheld and vehicle-mounted antennas the individual's signal gets picked up. The ground tracking range of the receivers is up to a mile. According to Spinks, the tracking equipment also can be used for aerial tracking in helicopters.
There is a $50 non-refundable cost to those enrolled in the program. The equipment, however, is entirely funded through the foundation.
For more information or a demonstration, contact Officer Maris Turner at 683-7227, or come to the Sequim Police Department at 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 21, for a Project Lifesaver training session.
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