NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Loved ones who wander is a scary reality for many families.
Parents and caretakers are finding peace of mind in New Braunfels through the Project Lifesaver program.
Children on the autism spectrum or senior citizens with a dementia diagnosis make up most of the clients in the program.
Sebastian is enrolled. On Thursday, he received a new battery in his Project Lifesaver ankle band. Now his family knows the search team will be able to find him quickly if he ever wanders off.
Sebastian is among 19 families taking part in the New Braunfels Project Lifesaver program.
It is for clients with a diagnosis such as Alzheimer's Disease, Autism, Down Syndrome, or dementia.
“The ones we're wanting to help out are the ones that do elope and can't find their way back home again, said Lt. Craig Christopherson with the New Braunfels Project Lifesaver program. "We started with the city probably about three years ago. If [the client does] leave and get lost, we can find them. To the parents, they just feel kind of a peace of mind and that's really important for the parents nowadays.”
The wrist or ankle bands contain a battery-powered transmitter. First responders and search team volunteers use a radio frequency receiver to pick up a signal from the wristband and find the missing client.
“They're instructed to call 911 as soon as their loved one goes missing,” said Christopherson.
He says the technology is cheaper than GPS and zeroes in on the transmitter location, even inside buildings. The Project Lifesaver team has been called out a few times since they started. Twice officers on patrol found the client within a few minutes. Clients have also been found still inside their home.
The wristbands and battery changes average about $500 a year. So far, donations from the New Braunfels Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association (NBCPAAA) and other local groups have covered the cost.
The team is made up of police officers, civilian employees with NBPD and members of the alumni association (NBCPAAA). They interact with the clients at monthly battery changes which helps families get to know the team who will show up if they ever need help.
“It's fun to see the kids, it's fun to see the adults...and it's fun to see them grow up," said Christopherson. "From where we started to where we are now with a relationship with them, I think is really important.”
To qualify for the program, you need to live inside New Braunfels City limits.
Click here for other criteria and to apply: New Braunfels Project Lifesaver
To sponsor a family's wristband, you can make a donation to the 501(c)(3) NBCPAAA earmarked for Project Lifesaver. Checks can be dropped off at the police department's front desk.
Project Lifesaver was created in Virginia in 1999. Since then, cities across the country started implementing the program.
Cibolo police recently started offering Project Lifesaver in their jurisdiction.
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