Nearly two years after announcing its intent to launch Project Lifesaver in Becker County, the local sheriff’s department is still shy of the $5,000 in donations needed to get the program going.

A recent $750 donation from Country Financial is a solid step in the right direction, but Sheriff Todd Glander said, “We still have a ways to go” to reach the goal.

Project Lifesaver is an international, nonprofit special needs search and rescue program that local public safety agencies can implement in their communities. The program protects and, when necessary, quickly locates people with cognitive disorders who are prone to wandering, such as individuals with autism or dementia.

The $5,000 needed to implement the program in Becker County would cover the cost of specialized locating technology -- namely, a radio transmitter system. Individuals in the Project Lifesaver program wear a small device around their wrist or ankle, which can be activated when the person goes missing.

Activated devices emit a radio frequency, Glander said, “and we as first responders or law enforcement can use that frequency to locate the person when there’s a situation. With this equipment, we are able to see exactly where they’re at.”

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He added that even in bad weather or under a thick forest canopy, “the radio transmitter works” -- there’s no concern about a signal getting lost in the middle of a search.

Glander became determined to bring Project Lifesaver to Becker County after a missing persons incident in October 2018. A 15-year-old Ponsford boy with autism went missing and it took nine hours of overnight searching to find him. Temperatures were below freezing, and the boy nearly died of hypothermia.

While the county already has search and rescue drones, canines and other means of finding missing people, recovery times for Project Lifesaver agencies average just 30 minutes. That’s 95% less time than standard operations without Project Lifesaver, according to projectlifesaver.org.

“We have resources right now for searching, and we call in whatever resources we need to find people,” said Glander. “Just because we don’t have this equipment now doesn’t mean we aren’t going to look for somebody. But with this equipment, we’ll have the means of locating people much faster, to avoid possible health risks.”

“Our main goal is to bring these persons home to their loved ones, without injury,” he added.

Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson, left, accepts a donation check from Justin Skarie of Country Financial. (Submitted Photo)
Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson, left, accepts a donation check from Justin Skarie of Country Financial. (Submitted Photo)

The recent donation to Project Lifesaver was one of two $750 donations awarded to local emergency responders through Country Financial’s Operation Helping Heroes program; the other was given to the Detroit Lakes Fire Department for the purchase of new equipment.

Justin Skarie, of Country Financial, stated in a press release that, “With the uncertainties of today, I couldn’t be happier to contribute to a better tomorrow. I can’t thank our local law enforcement and firefighters enough for all they do in our community, and I hope that our donation serves them well. Know that you are appreciated and respected in our community; we see all the good you do.”

To make a donation to Project Lifesaver, call Sheriff Glander at 218-847-2661.