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Western PA Search and Rescue Development Center > Operation: Take Me Home > Programs > Electronic Transmitters  

Lifesaving Programs for the Special Need Population

Radio Direction Finding Program Protects Wandering Patients

Over 5,000,000 people in the USA have Alzheimer's. That number will triple by 2050. A new government survey of parents suggests that 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The numbers are increasing. Well over 50% of these people wander and become lost. A lost person with special needs represents a critical emergency as nearly half of them will die and many can become injured or fall victim to predators if they are not located within 24 hours. The number of people, families and communities experiencing this risk will grow dramatically in this decade.

If you are not yet touched in some way by Alzheimer's, Autism, Down's Syndrome or other dementia, chances are you will be within the next several years. You will find it among neighbors, your friends, co-workers and their families, and perhaps within your own family.

How It Works

It is an active system that relies
on radio direction finding techniques and trained law enforcement, EMS and Fire/ Rescue personnel. People who are part of the program wear a personalized bracelet that emits a tracking signal. When caregivers notify the local  agency that the person is missing, a  team responds to the wanderer's area and starts searching with the radio receiver Search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes.

 It is a one-ounce battery-operated radio wrist transmitter emitting an automatic tracking signal every second, 24 hours a day. The signal is tracked on the ground or in the air over several miles. As each bracelet has a unique radio frequency, the search team positively locates and identifies the person who has wandered away from home or a care facility.

Technology is Only Half the Story

Members of the team are specially trained, not only in use of the
electronic tracking equipment, but especially in the methods to communicate with a special needs person. Locating the individual is only part of the mission. The person who is located will be disoriented, anxious, and untrusting. The specialized team knows how to approach the person, gain their trust and put them at ease for the trip back home.