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Knox County Sheriff’s Department heads up 'Project Lifesaver'

The Knox County Sheriff’s Department has become the state coordinator for a nationally recognized program that has saved the lives of more than 800 people with Alzheimer’s disease and Down Syndrome.

Chief Gene Saunders, the executive director of Project Lifesaver was at the Knox County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy the week of Nov. 17 to conduct a three-day training course for KCSD staff.

Project Lifesaver training class began on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 9 a.m. at the Knox County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in the indoor firing range classroom.

Established in 1999 as an initiative of the 43rd Virginia Search and Rescue Company of the Chesapeake, Va., Sheriff’s Office, Project Lifesaver relies on radio-frequency technology, complemented by a search-and-rescue team that has received special training. People who use the services of the Project Lifesaver program wear a personalized wristband that emits a constant tracking signal.

When caregivers notify the local Project Lifesaver agency that the person is missing, a search-and-rescue team responds to the wanderer’s area and starts searching with the mobile locator tracking system. Search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes.

In more than 800 searches, there have been no reported deaths or serious injuries. The average rescue is less than 20 minutes. A lost person with Alzheimer’s or Down Syndrome represents a critical emergency. Nearly half of these missing and wandering will die if they are not located within 24 hours, and many can become injured or fall victim to predators.

The KCSD was the first agency in the state of Tennessee to have Project Lifesaver. Following the specialized instruction and certification, the state-coordinating agency becomes the focal point for the training, development and distribution of equipment throughout the state.

The KCSD received an Edward Byrne law Enforcement Grant for this program, with all equipment and training costs paid for by the grant. Project Lifesaver earned the National Sheriff’s Association’s official endorsement in June 2003. By December 2002, the program was operating in more than 20 states and three countries.

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