Project Lifesaver tracking technology helps keep those with Autism, Alzheimer’s safe

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HIGH RIDGE, MO (KTVI)- There’s a new push to keep missing persons cases from ending in tragedy, especially for children on the Autism spectrum, people with Alzheimer’s, or Downs Syndrome, via a program called Project Lifesaver .

Proponents boast the lost have been found safe and sound, every single time, nationwide.

“The average time to find somebody … is under 30 minutes. They have a 100% success rate, so far.  They’ve got over 3100 people that have been found,” said John Barton of the High Ridge Fire Protection District.

He’s become certified to train fellow firefighters in the use of the program which involves a handheld radio antenna and a transmitter bracelet.

His son, Lucas, 6, wears one of the special bracelets on his ankle.

The hand-held antenna chirps when Lucas and his transmitter are within three miles.

“The signal strength increases as we get closer,” Barton said.

In the event someone in the program is missing, firefighters respond with the antennas to the area of the last known sighting.

“50% of kids with Autism will wander,  Alzheimers is 60%,” Barton said.  “So, when you have someone who is missing that can have problems communicating that might not be aware of the dangers they face, this program can be the difference between life and death, finding them quickly.”

Most don’t realize his son, a Bowles Elementary School kindergartner, is on the Autism spectrum.

Barton and his wife worry it may become an issue if Lucas gets lost.

“He does communicate very well.  But he communicates with strangers when we’re around.  I don’t know if he was lost and truly didn’t know where he was at that he would reach out and tell them he was lost,” Barton said.

The Project Lifesaver program costs his family $25-a-month, which covers the waterproof transmitter and batteries.

The different transmitter color options made it an easy “sell” for Lucas, who likes to test his transmitter as part of his nightly routine.

A $5,000 dollar grant from Autism Speaks just paid for another antenna for High Ridge.

Most importantly, when tested, the stuff works.

“On the last (test) search … I actually drove my vehicle to a parking lot, parked it, then walked several hundred feet away into the woods and hid by a tree.  They were still able to find me in 8 minutes,” Barton said.

Lucas is the only person signed up, so far.

Florissant Police and the St. Clair County Sheriff's department are also enrolled.

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