Wrist monitor facilitates missing persons searches

Using a hand-held device resembling an old-fashioned television antenna, volunteer John Hubbard tracks a beep that sounds like a cross between a chirp and a puppy's bark.

Under the watchful eye of Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Bret Hicks, Hubbard follows the sounds and impulses until he locates three wristwatch-size devices that will play a part in finding the lost or missing.

It's part of the sheriff's office new Care Trak system, designed to reduce the time it takes to find a missing person who may be incapacitated by dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

The emergency locator system also is effective in finding special-needs children who may not be able to communicate.

"This will be a be a real benefit to families who deal with those diseases," said Sheriff Ron Pierini.

The subject wears a transmitter with its own frequency traceable up to 10 miles away on land or in the air. The small device is on a wrist strap that cannot be easily removed, or accidentally fall off. It is designed to be worn at all times and is waterproof.

Pierini learned of the Care Trak system at a technology conference for rural law enforcement agencies.

With a $3,000 donation from the International Footprinters Association and Michael Sweig, a member of the sheriff's advisory council, Douglas County was able to purchase equipment.

Clint Gray, a retired Vermont State Police lieutenant, trained volunteers from TRIAD, citizens patrol and search and rescue last week at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office with deputies Teresa Duffy and Hicks.

"With Care Trak, the average length of a search is 30 minutes," Gray said. "Throughout the country, we've used Care Trak in 1,800 missions, and everybody has been found alive."

Trainers spent two days hiding the transmitters in locations throughout Carson Valley. They even managed to find one that a squirrel had carried off 300 yards from its original location.

That recovery took a little longer than 30 minutes.

The bracelets cost about $200.

Volunteers install the transmitter batteries and replace them monthly. That enables them to check on the status of their clients and make sure the locators are still functioning.

Families also provide detailed profiles about the clients including personal data, health and psychological conditions, personality traits, and other information.

"We really want to push this in Douglas County," Pierini said. "With our senior population and the issues some people have with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, it can be a real benefit to families.

"If a person disappears, we can put the antenna in a patrol car, on an airplane or do a foot search," Pierini said.

"It's really pretty basic," Duffy said. "The person puts it on and never takes it off. If someone is missing, their caregiver or family member calls, and we check the frequency and start the search."

Duffy said the cost may seem high to some, "but you balance the cost of this bracelet against the cost of a life and having your loved one home safe and secure instead of 100 yards away from the house in a ditch and nobody can find them."

The volunteers were enthusiastic.

"The first time this saves somebody's life, what an investment," said Paul Howard, a member of the citizens patrol.


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