Local News

‘Project Lifesaver’ Aims to Quickly Find Missing People With Brain Disorders

Posted November 23, 2007 11:02 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2007 11:15 p.m. EST

— Technology used to find hunting dogs is being used to find missing people.

Project Lifesaver locates people with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Down Syndrome, dementia and other brain disorders who wander away from home.

"We are hoping we can find people in less than a half hour once we arrive," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

People enrolled in the program wear a tracking device bracelet. If the person wanders away, rescuers use a mobile receiver to pick up the bracelet's signal. The technology is being used in Wake and Cumberland counties.

"We have a lot of people wander off and it takes us six, eight, ten hours before we can find them," Harrison said.

Billy Talley, 79, wasn't wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet when he disappeared in May.

"I got lost," he said.

Suffering from dementia, Talley said he wandered away from a Cary restaurant and ended up in the woods – night fell and a storm moved in.

"Well it was quite scary, I tell you, when I realized that I was lost and had to find my way out, he said.

It was the next morning, 14 hours later, before Talley was spotted. He had never been more than a mile away from his rescuers.

"It is almost like finding a needle in a haystack," Harrison said.

In the year – Project Lifesaver has been in use – it has helped locate two missing Wake County people.

Talley is now one of 19 people in Wake County who wear the tracking bracelet. If he is ever lost and disoriented again, Talley said others will be able to find him quicker.

"That person is looking for someone to show him the way," he said.

The $300 bracelets are provided for free through donations. They have a tracking range of up to five miles in some cases.

For more information on Project Lifesaver, call 919-856-6848.