Guerin Foundation lauded for funding Project Lifesaver

Six elderly people who were lost, wandering and in danger of dying have been found thanks to the Project Lifesaver program funded by the Ray and Donna Guerin Family Foundation.

Donna Guerin was honored by Sequim Police Chief Robert Spinks with a plaque at Monday's Sequim City Council meeting, along with the program's 50 volunteers.

The Project Lifesaver Program fits people vulnerable to disorientation or wandering, such as Alzheimer's patients, with a bracelet containing a waterproof radio transmitter about the size of a watch.

'Ping's the thing

Sequim Police and Clallam County Fire District 3 personnel can use one of four radio receivers to obtain a "ping" from the transmitter and locate the missing person.

The signal can be detected up to a mile away using handheld and vehicle-mounted antennas. It also can be tracked by helicopter.

Each unit costs $300, but the city charges only $50 because of the grant.

Once the person buys the bracelet, volunteers visit regularly to change its batteries and check the equipment.

Saving lives

Spinks said six of the nine people located in the three years since the program started might have died from exposure, lack of medications or other factors if not found quickly.

The program would not be possible without the Guerin Family Foundation and volunteers, he said.

Finding a lost person be-fore the bracelets meant dividing the city into a search grid, then checking each grid square, including alleys and ravines. That process isn't always effective and also costs a lot of overtime, Spinks said.

Sequim Police accepted the first donation in 2006, then began buying equipment, training personnel and enrolling clients in 2007.

At the June 8, 2009, council meeting, the city received an additional $20,000 grant from the Guerin Foundation to buy additional bracelets and equipment such as receivers.

Quickly useful

Less than two weeks after that meeting, an elderly woman was located after wandering from Costco Wholesale on a Saturday afternoon. Sequim's program now has 27 clients.

The international Project Lifesaver Program came to Sequim in 2006 after a male relative of the Guerins who had dementia wandered from the QFC grocery store. Following an extensive search, he was found curled up under bushes behind the store.

The family donated funds from a family foundation to buy four Osprey radio receivers for the Sequim Police Department and Clallam County Fire District 3.

The Clallam County Sheriff's Office will train Project Lifesaver personnel in March then enroll clients in west Clallam County.

For more information, contact Sequim Police Officer Maris Turner at 683-7227 or visit the Sequim Police Department, 609 W. Washington St. Suite 16.

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