Jonathan Floyd with the Dadeville Police Department practices using a directional antenna during a simulated search and rescue activity outside the Hackneyville Community Center Wednesday. | Austin Nelson

Archived Story

Search smarter, not harder

Published 12:39pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

Locating a single person who has wandered off can be a costly and time-consuming task, but officers with the Alabama Department of Public Safety said it doesn’t have to be that way.

State troopers met at Hackneyville Community Center with law enforcement from across the county yesterday to explain Project Lifesaver, an international program that utilizes radio technology to locate missing persons. Officers from New Site, Dadeville, Alexander City and the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department were present for the program.

Lee Hamilton, chief pilot with the State Troopers, said  his helicopter crew often gets called to assist on search and rescue missions.

“We are typically the ones called when a search goes on for several hours and the victim isn’t located,” Hamilton said. “If more people had (Lifesaver) bracelets on, we wouldn’t worry about finding them 10 to 12 days later. You will be able to find them in about 15 minutes.”

The program utilizes directional antennas and special radio bracelets that can be worn on the wrist or ankle. Hamilton said that the bracelets are good for those with a tendency to wander off, such as children with autism, Downs syndrome or adults with Alzheimer’s.

“The bracelets have a specific frequency for that person and the frequency is entered into a database,” Hamilton said.

If the individual turns up missing, officers can use the directional antennas to hone in on the missing person within a two to three mile radius on the ground.

If the equipment is used from a helicopter, the range increases to nine to 12 miles.

Hamilton said a bracelet costs $380, which is far more affordable than a conventional search and rescue effort.

“It costs $1,500 (for a conventional search), which takes an average of nine hours,” Hamilton said.

In addition to explaining the program, troopers were on hand to show officers how to operate the equipment.

Thanks to a recent grant, the Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department was able to purchase the antennas and bracelets.

“We applied for this grant last year, and we are very fortunate that we were able to get it,” Abbett said. “The equipment just arrived, so it’s time to start the training process before moving to implementing the program in the community.”

Abbett said the troopers will also be training officers on how to train other officers so other agencies can participate in the program.

“We already have one person in our community with the bracelet – we would like to make it available to all people,” Abbett said. “This can give people a sense of security that if their child or loved one gets lost, there will be a way to find them.”