AUBURN — In early June, a 12-year-old autistic girl wandered away from her Auburn home. It was the kind of vanishing act that would normally cause panic and a frantic search.

But not this time.

This time, the missing lass was found within minutes, thanks to a technology dubbed Project Lifesaver, a program aimed at making quick work of emergencies like this one.

According to Auburn police, the 12-year-old had a history of wandering off, so she had been fitted with a Project Lifesaver transmitter.

The program made all the difference. Now, the young girl is not only safe and sound, she also represents an important milestone.

“Within a very short time of receiving the report that she was missing, Auburn police officers were able to safely locate the child,” according to a program report, “leading to the very first successful Project Lifesaver track in the state of Maine.”

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The Lifesaver transmitter is a reasonably small device that is worn around the wrist or ankle. It isn’t bulky or clunky; it looks like just another piece of wearable technology in an age where these kinds of gadgets are becoming commonplace.

The important part has nothing to do with fashion, though.

“Project Lifesaver’s mission,” according to program literature, “is to use state-of-the-art technology to find persons with Alzheimer’s, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dementia or any other cognitive condition that may cause them to wander and become lost.

“A lost person with a cognitive condition represents a critical emergency,” according to the program brochure. “They are often unaware of their situation. They may not call out for help and sometimes do not respond to people calling out for them.”

In a search for a person fitted with one of the radio transmitters, police estimate the average time of rescue at 30 minutes.

“Time is a critical element in the success rate of these types of searches, and Project Lifesaver will dramatically reduce search time and improve our chances of a successful search,” police Chief Phillip L. Crowell Jr. said.

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The program costs $50 per year and is available to any resident of Auburn who suffers from a cognitive issue and is willing to commit to the bracelet.

Auburn police have been a part of the project for about a year. Several officers have been trained in the Lifesaver technology and there is almost always at least one trained officer on duty, according to police Lt. Timothy Cougle.

So far, four local people have signed up for the program and are wearing the transmitter bracelets.

Project Lifesaver was launched in Chesapeake, Va., and is used at 1,200 agencies in 45 states and in some areas of Canada. Program officials say nearly 3,000 successful searches have been conducted with the help of the program.

For more information on Project Lifesaver:

Contact Auburn police Officer Michael Chaine at [email protected] or at 207-333-6650 ext. 2058.

Visit the program website: auburnmaine.gov/pages/government/project-lifesaver


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