Northwest Minnesota county to try GPS to keep track of vulnerable people
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- In mid-October, it took the Becker County Sheriff's Office in northwest Minnesota nine hours of overnight searching to find a missing 15-year-old Ponsford boy who has autism.
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- In mid-October, it took the Becker County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Minnesota nine hours of overnight searching to find a missing 15-year-old Ponsford boy who has autism.
The temperature was below freezing and the wind chill was 18 at midnight that night, according to the National Weather Service.
Emergency crews from various agencies searched for the boy all night, and around 9 a.m., he came out of the woods on his own. He was wet and hypothermic when authorities found him. He almost died.
“His core body temperature was in the low 90s,” said Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander. “The EMS said in another 20 minutes he would have been dead.”
The boy was flown to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale for specialized treatment, but the near-miss got Glander thinking about better ways to find missing people.
That’s why the sheriff’s office is now fundraising for Project Lifesaver, which equips vulnerable people with a GPS bracelet so they can be found more easily if they wander.
Does it work? Ten days before the Ponsford boy went missing, a missing person with autism was found in 7 minutes in Lynchburg, Va., thanks to a Project Lifesaver bracelet.
Fifteen days after the Ponsford search, another person with autism was found in under an hour in Franklin, N.J., due to Project Lifesaver.
So far, nearly 3,500 people have been located, most with autism or dementia, because they were wearing Project Lifesaver GPS bracelets. The bracelets can help any at-risk vulnerable adults and children who tend to wander due to a cognitive condition.
The GPS units have a range of one to three miles and work in heavy tree cover and even under water, Glander said.
Costs for Project Lifesaver startup equipment range from $4,100 to $4,900 and include two emergency response kits, five-band receivers, transmitters, battery sets, antennas, headsets, band sets and other equipment. Basic operator training and an instructor course are part of the membership package.
The Becker County Board earlier this month gave its blessing to the sheriff’s office launching a fund-raising drive to join Project Lifesaver.