Training underway on how to use equipment to help return lost people home

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - On a sunny afternoon a hunt for a small transmitter begins in a Nacogdoches city park. The transmitter is just like one that could be worn by a  lost adult or child on a bracelet.  The process is like hiding Easter eggs. A trainer tucks one away in the crook of a tree. "If they can find this little transmitter, than they can find a person," she said.

Trainers show volunteers and emergency workers how to use a mobile antenna to pick up the transmission. Their direction is led by a chirping sound. Nacogdoches firefighter, Captain Scott Langley begins with a 360-degree turn to select his direction and then takes out at a brisk pace. "He's not afraid to walk. You know he trusts his signal and he's going to it," said trainer Susan Riedsel with satisfaction in her tone.

The Nacogdoches Pilot Club calls it Project Lifesaver. It spent around $10,000 for two units. Pilot clubs in other East Texas cities are doing the same thing. "If my Alzheimer patient wandered off and I think they've gone to Cherokee or Smith County we call that law enforcement," explained Pilot Club organizer Betty Shinn. "They switch their numbers and they can pick them up there." Next month training will take place in Angelina County. Marshall will be trained in March. Project Lifesaver is now in six East Texas counties.

The technology has a good track record dating back to 1999. "So far all founds have been within 30 minutes from the time of point last seen and all of them have been found alive," said Riedsel. Just having that proof boosts emergency workers' confidence.   "Haven't had one (search) in a while, but I remember the feeling when we had and couldn't find somebody within an hour or so on a hot July day," recalled Langley.  "It's not a good feeling, so this gives you the feeling of reassurance before you even step out of the station."

The Pilot Club is accepting applications for project lifesaver grants. Soon two Alzheimer's patients will have the added security.