Arrowsmith Search and Rescue quickly located a missing man with dementia on Jan. 7 using Project Lifesaver. - Black Press file photo

Radio transmitter helps quickly locate missing Parksville man with dementia

Man found within 12 minutes thanks to Project Lifesaver

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue quickly located a missing man with dementia after he wandered from his Parksville home on Jan. 7.

The man was found within 12 minutes of the search starting, thanks to a watch-sized VHF transmitter he wears on his wrist.

The transmitter comes from Nanaimo Lifeline’s Project Lifesaver and is set on a unique radio frequency so search and rescue teams equipped with direction-finding receivers can immediately dispatch and perform an electronic search.

The technology is not new but is reliable and doesn’t depend on cell service or a view of the sky that GPS systems need.

The man was found in good shape and taken home.

Project Lifesaver is an international program that was implemented in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region in 2013.

“We partnered locally with the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue,” said Project Lifesaver’s executive director Tammy Paton.

“Project Lifesaver started in 1999 (internationally). Twenty-six states have it and five provinces in Canada, but not every community has it.”

Paton said the program is designed for wanderers.

“They could be autistic kids, anyone with dementia, Alzheimer’s or down syndrome,” she said.

“Anyone with cognitive leanings towards wandering.”

When a person goes missing, search and rescue crews pick up a radio signal that’s being transmitted from the wrist of the Project Lifesaver client.

Paton said each client has a profile set up with a photo and physical description and information about the person for search crews.

Currently, only four people in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region use the Project Lifesaver transmitters but Paton said 26 people have used the program since its inception.

“We’ve had several successful searches,” she said.

Nick Rivers, Arrowsmith SAR president, said the Jan. 7 search was the first time search crews used Project Lifesaver to locate a missing person.

Rivers said he wishes more people in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area would use the program because it’s an extremely helpful tool when searching for a missing person. He said he was able to pick up the radio frequency of the missing man immediately and drive right to him.

“One of the things that I have felt in the past is when you’re called out for a person that’s gone missing that has a cognitive issue, and the person either isn’t found or is found but it isn’t a very happy ending, you’ll often look back and go ‘I wonder what it would have been like if this person was on Project Lifesaver,’” Rivers said.

He said it took little to no resources to locate the missing man and it’s entirely possible Project Lifesaver saved his life.

Rivers said Project Lifesaver hasn’t grown in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area as expected but it has taken off in Victoria.

“[In Victoria] it’s used quiet a bit, they have a very large client base down. From what I understand they’ve had hundreds of successful operations in Victoria,” Rivers said.

There are other systems used for locating missing people, Rivers said, like GPS, but he said when SAR did testing, they found that the GPS system didn’t work in heavy tree cover or in concrete buildings.

“That’s why we went with the radio frequency system so we could track [individuals] wherever they are,” he said.

Anyone interested in the program can contact Nanaimo Lifeline at 250-739-5770 or visit their website at http://www.nanaimolifeline.ca/project-lifesaver.html.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Still no firm plan for cold-weather shelter in Parksville

BC Housing says community partners will present their plans in ‘coming weeks’

Person airlifted to hospital from Parksville Community Park

Police say ‘no danger to the public’ following incident

RCMP looking for missing 26-year-old woman, last seen in Parksville

Public asked for assistance finding Felicia Olteanu

Car crashes on Northwest Bay Road in Nanoose Bay

Single-lane alternating traffic on Northwest Bay at Wall Beach Road

Ballenas JV Whalers reach final four in Subway Bowl competition

Gridiron squad tames Timberwolves 28-6, will face South Kamloops in semifinals

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read