Project Lifesaver: Bringing loved ones home safely

LINO LAKES — Although Lino Lakes has a population of over 20,000, as of last week only one client is registered for Project Lifesaver, a program offered through the Lino Lakes Public Safety Department. 

The department is hoping to change that. “There are over 20,000 people in Lino (Lakes) and we know that we have a need for it, but the people aren’t coming forward,” said Officer Jackie McIntosh, who has been with the department for nearly 10 years. “Either they don’t know about it, or they have questions and haven’t had the time to ask, or maybe they think they can’t afford it.” 

After Anoka County disbanded its program in 2014, Lino Lakes took it over. The department received a grant to start up its own program, purchase the necessary equipment and train four officers. In 2015, another grant was obtained to purchase additional equipment and to provide some financial assistance to families interested in participating in the program, who might not financially be able to do so. 

“The purpose (of the program) is to assist in locating members of the public who are at risk or wander  due to specific medical conditions,” McIntosh explained. “It helps bringing peace of mind to the caretakers and family members with loved ones that can benefit from the program. The whole purpose is to bring them home safe.” 

Project LifeSaver is a nonprofit organization that bridges the technological gap for at-risk populations and public safety agencies. It provides police, fire/rescue and other first responders with a comprehensive program on the use of specialized electronic search and rescue equipment, technology and procedures, as well as training to teach rescuers how to effectively communicate with people afflicted with cognitive conditions.

Project Lifesaver has over 1,600 participating member agencies throughout 50 states in the U.S., six provinces in Canada and Australia, and has performed over 3,000 searches over the last 18 years with no serious injuries or fatalities ever reported.

“It is appropriate for anyone who is at risk to wander, or who wanders, who does not know they need help or can’t ask for help,” McIntosh said. Project Lifesaver serves various populations who have medical conditions including Alzheimer’s, dementia, Down syndrome, autism or a traumatic brain injury. 

Project Lifesaver clients wear a FM transmitter, typically on their ankle or wrist. In some cases, the transmitter may be fixed to a particular item or piece of clothing, if a client never leaves the house without that item/clothing. 

“Typically, we want it on their body; it always goes with them. It is about the size of a smart watch,” McIntosh said. “It goes through the shower, it goes through the dirt, everything with the client.” 

If a client goes missing, before starting to search the client’s caretaker or family member will immediately call dispatch to inform them that a Project Lifesaver client is missing. Law enforcement is then able to locate the client using a FM receiver to track the client’s unique FM frequency. 

McIntosh said Project Lifesaver is an important program to have, especially in an area such as Lino Lakes. “With the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes system, we understand that we have a lot of wooded and marshy territory in the city where somebody could easily disappear, especially with certain populations that can be attracted to water,” she said. “We are covering 33 square miles.” McIntosh added the city has two senior living facilities in addition to multiple group homes. 

Lino Lakes resident Jackie Peterson utilized the program for her daughter, Anya, who is now 10 years old. Anya was a client of Project LifeSaver through the county until the program was disbanded and continued as a client with the Lino Lakes program for another two years. 

Anya was diagnosed with autism when she was 25 months old. Until she was about 5 years old, she was nonverbal and had some learning delays. “Because she wasn’t verbal, it showed her what police officers are like, they are friendly, nice and you can go to them for help,” Peterson said. “That is one of the fears within the autism community: officers are there to help you, but do our children know that?” 

Peterson added the monthly interaction was huge for both Anya and her other children. If the family was experiencing a technology problem or needed new equipment, Peterson said the officers always came out right away and made the family’s schedule work. 

“You very much still need to keep your guard up. This isn’t a safeguard that your kid is not going to be able to get out of the house or get away from you. But if it did happen, it gives the people the necessary resources to find your child quickly before something happens,” she said.

The department is only able to offer the program to Lino Lakes residents, but McIntosh said the department would consider clients who live within a mile or two of the city’s borders on a case-by-case basis. Cost for the program for the first year is $310, which includes the transmitter, transmitter case, necessary maintenance and batteries/bands. Each year after that the cost is $43, which pays for the year’s 12 batteries/bands.

Since the batteries/bands have to be changed once a month, the assigned officer visits the client once a month, which McIntosh said, “allows us to build positive relationships with the client.” 

Currently, three officers are trained for the program, but McIntosh’s goal is to get all of the patrol staff up to speed and properly trained for Project Lifesaver. For more information, contact Jackie McIntosh at [email protected] or 651-982-2347. 

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Project Lifesaver International
Project Lifesaver is a nonprofit organization that helps rapidly locate individuals with cognitive conditions who wander. For more information please visit:
Project Lifesaver International

Project Lifesaver International

Project Lifesaver is a nonprofit organization that helps rapidly locate individuals with cognitive conditions who wander. For more information please visit:

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