Local agencies get Project Lifesaver training

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

When an Alzheimer’s patient wanders from home, it can take an average of eight to nine hours for authorities to find the person.

That’s a long time for a family to worry about their loved one, and a lot of man hours spent finding the patient.

Email newsletter signup

On Wednesday morning, local law enforcement officials began a Basic Operations Course with Project Lifesaver, a program that can cut the search time to 30 minutes, and can save lives.

“No family is immune from being affected by Alzheimer’s,” instructor Sgt. Dale Phelps told the officers gathered for the training. “Your family may be in need of this equipment one day.”

Phelps said people with Alzheimer’s Disease, or other types of dementia, develop a tendency to wander. “They’re going on a mission,” he said.

The equipment provided through Project Lifesaver can help officers find the individual more quickly.

“We’ve been working on this since about February,” said Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman. “I felt there was a need for it. We do have people with Alzheimer’s disease who wander off. This will cut the search time down tremendously.”


the 67 counties in Alabama, Dallas County will be about the 27th to implement the Project Lifesaver program.

Phelps said that since the program started, it has been used 1,300 times. “It has a 100 percent success rate,” Phelps said.

Steve Tidwell, director of E-911, will direct the program in Dallas County. The equipment will be placed at the E-911 Center because it has to be in a location that operates 24 hours a day, Huffman said.

There is a criteria for patients to be in the program, and families must sign a contract.

If an individual in the program is lost, the family will call dispatch. Two deputies will respond, Huffman said. One will go straight to the house, the other will pick up the equipment, then go to the house. “It doesn’t matter if it happens in the city, or in the county, we’ll respond,” he said.

With the receiver pinpointing the location of the Alzheimer’s patient, the average search time is about 30 minutes, officials said. “That sure beats several hours of having people driving around, just looking,” he said. “If they get lost now, we’ll be in a lot better shape to find them than we were before.”

Huffman said it takes about $5,500 to kick off the program, and all the funds have come from donations.

“With the contributions we’ve gotten this year, we went well over that,” he said, adding that the money purchases the training, antennas and receivers. The transmitters that the individual patients will wear come at an additional cost, but with about $9,500 donated, the department has the base needed, as well as extra for transmitters.

“And we have a little left over in case something gets damaged,” Huffman said.

The only cost to the family is the battery, which costs about $10 and has to be replaced every four to six weeks.

Huffman said those who contributed include Vaughan Community Health Services, the Selma Exchange Club, Pilot Club of Selma, Selma Lions Club, Kiwanis Club of Selma, Vaughan Regional Medical Center, Louisiana-Pacific, Church Street United Methodist Church, International Paper, Alabama Power, the Hampton Inn and individuals including Jessica and Duncan Hope and Charles Pollack on behalf of the Mary Sweeney Friendship Class.