Project Lifesaver comes to Elk County

Ridgway, Elk County, Pa. - Minutes could mean life of death when searching for a missing person. Elk County Sheriff Todd Caltagarone explains that during a search, "time is off the essence, it is an emergency."

Project life saver can help cut down that search time by hours. Project officials say the average search time nationally is nine hours. However, they say with the device, the average search time is 30 minutes. 

On Wednesday, Elk County first responders began their training on the new devices. " Caltagarone says it's much needed for the area. "Over the last three years we had roughly 50 walk aways and wanderers where searches were required."

ProjectLlivesaver is focused for the elderly suffering from Dementia or Alzheimers. It's also aimed at children with special needs such Down Syndrome or Autism. Project instructors say it will beneficial for families with a member who have a tendency to wander. 

"If you never have to use the program, and actually do a search if nothing else it gave the family a peace of mind," says instructor Tim Caldwell.

The device is about the size of a wrist watch that is worn on an ankle or wrist. It stays on the person 24/7, even through showers or swimming. A battery must be replaced every 60 days. 

If a person is reported missing, it submits a radio frequency that  allows crews to track location even in the most rural areas. The strong frequency can be picked up within one to three miles of the transmitter, allowing them to track in wooded areas of elk county, where crews previously had problems with reception. 

"You can't often catch a cell phone signal to help locate a person you actually have to go out and find them," says Terry Detch, volunteer with the Elkland Search and Rescue team. 

The cost for the device would be around $350 per family. However, the county is hoping to make it available to them for free through fundraising. 

Sheila Mazzaferro is spearheading the fundraising, as a part of Life and Independence for Today. She explains families with special needs children or elders usually rack up expenses quickly. "They tend to run into other medical bills, we're trying to keep it so that the people that need it can get it."

Families must meet requirements to become eligible for a device, however, officials have not put them in effect yet.They say they should have it up and running in the next month. 

Fundraising efforts are currently underway. A $5 raffle is available for a chance to win $1,000 in groceries from Elk County Foods in both the Ridgway and Johnsonburg locations. Second and third place will win a full turkey dinner, just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

For more information on the raffle, or to donate to project lifesaver in Elk County, call Mazzaferro at (814) 781-3050 ext 208. 


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