Victim Services will be lead admin for Project Lifesaver

Project Lifesaver works through a band like the one seen above which tracks a loved one who may have a tendency to wander.

Device helps keep loved ones safe

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin Island North Shore Victim Services will be taking on the administration role for the proposed Project Lifesaver  being set up on the Island.

“It is very exciting,” stated Tanya Wall, executive director of Victim  Services last Thursday, a day after the announcement was made at the Manitoulin Community Police Advisory (CPAC) board meeting. “Absolutely, we are looking forward to this. A number of victim services groups in other areas of the province have taken on this role. Having a loved one go missing is a very traumatic, and unfortunately sometimes a tragic, circumstance. And we are already working with the Manitoulin police so this is a good fit,” said Ms. Wall.

At a Manitoulin CPAC committee meeting on Wednesday of last week, board chair Al Boyd told members, “At our last meeting, we talked about the importance of the Lifesaver program. As a quick review, with this program bracelets are provided to individuals who have Alzheimers or dementia. It is a tracking device that indicates where a missing person, who is wearing the bracelet, is. This way the police and other agencies are better assisted in a search for a person who may have wandered away.” 

“Tessa Kasch (OPP community services officer) told us about the program at our last meeting  and this committee was in favour of supporting it. However, as members (CPAC committee) you raised concerns that an administrative body for the program could be difficult to find,” said Mr. Boyd

“As you know, I am the vice-chair of the Victim Services board, and I’m very happy to report the Victim Services board has agreed to take on the program project at the administrative level (with the current staff members),” Mr. Boyd told the committee. They can take on such duties as registration for the Lifesaver bracelets, and to co-ordinate and take part in regular battery changes for the batteries. It is a good fit as the Victim Services office is located in the OPP detachment office building in Little Current.”

Mr. Boyd said that Victim Services is looking at sources for funding for the program, and that it does fundraising. “And we are looking for funding applications and opportunities.”

“A lot of other victim services agencies in Ontario have taken on the administration part of the Lifesaver program and it is working very well,” said Mr.  Boyd.

“Victim Services has a lot of great ideas on this program and we are very excited they have taken on the administrative role for the program,” OPP constable Kasch told The Expositor. “It is so exciting to be working with them.”

Constable Kasch had forwarded a letter to all municipal councils on the Island requesting support in principle for the program.

“I know in the case of NEMI (Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands) council we would like to see a budget outlining the operating costs and Tessa is working through our executive director to provide a little more detailed information,” said Mr. Boyd.

“We definitely appreciate Victim Services taking on the administrative role to coordinate the program,” stated OPP Inspector Detachment Commander Megan Moriarity. “A huge thank you. I am sure everything will run very well.” She said it is hoped that the program will be in operation by the summer.

“The next stage in the process is to go out and acquire funding support for the program,” said Inspector Moriarity.

“I had thought the biggest obstacle to getting this project started would be finding someone to take on the administration duties,” said Steve Shaffer. “I would like to thank Victim Services for taking this on.”

“We’ve seen the need for the program as Victim Services,” said Mr. Boyd. “There was no hesitation on the part of any of our board members to taking this on.”

Constable Kasch had explained previously the Project Lifesaver program was founded in 1999 and provides for a radio frequency-based tracking system. It emits radio data 24 hours a day, so the signal is always on. The system is for people of all age who are high risk or a vulnerable person who has a tendency to wander and who might he diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, autism, Downs Syndrome and other forms of cognitive delay.

Clients wear a personalized wristband that emits a unique tracking signal. The wristband is a one-ounce battery-operated wrist transmitter emitting an FM radio frequency-based signal that will emit a signal every second, 24 hours a day. The signal can be tracked on the ground for approximately 2.5 kilometres or in the air by helicopter for approximately 8-10 kilometres.

Each wristband has a unique radio frequency allowing officers to positively locate and identify the person who has wandered away from home using portable directional antennae to locate the signal. There are two different types of antennae. One is secured to the roof of responding OPP vehicles (less range but will allow for the transmitted signal to be received from any direction). Once the signal is detected, officers switch to the second one that allows them to make use of the maximum range of the bracelets and has the advantage of being directional.

Constable Kasch had pointed out most people who wander are found a few kilometres from their home. Search times, when using Project Lifesaver, have been reduced from days to minutes. And recovery time for Project Lifesaver clients averages 30 minutes, significantly less than through standard operations.