Project Lifesaver

Welcome to the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver page. Here you will find information about the program, helpful links, and a link to to contact the program coordinator to request services.

Project Lifesaver Informational Video

Overview & Mission

The primary mission of Project Lifesaver is to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, Autism, and other related cognitive conditions.

  • Currently 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s with as many as 16 million cases expected by 2050.
  • Wandering, the most life-threatening behavior associated with Alzheimer’s, affects 59 percent of patients and 45 percent of those cases end tragically in death if the person is not located within 24 hours.
  • Autism, which is the fastest growing developmental disability that now afflicts one in every 110 children, can also cause children to wander.

Project Lifesaver International (PLI) is a non-profit organization that since 1999 has developed a network of more than 1,000 law enforcement and other public safety agencies nationwide, which have been trained and certified in the use of electronic search and rescue technology.
The task of searching for wandering or lost individuals with Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other cognitive conditions is a growing and serious responsibility. Without effective procedures and equipment, searches can involve multiple agencies, hundreds of officers, countless man hours and thousands of dollars. More importantly, because time is of the essence, every minute lost increases the risk of a tragic outcome.

Currently, over 1,100 agencies – police, sheriff, fire, public safety departments and other emergency responders – in 45 states, D.C., Canada and Australia participate. The method relies on proven Radio Frequency technology and specially trained search and rescue teams.

Facts & Figures

Alzheimer’s Disease

Currently 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and the incidence keeps increasing (2008 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures)

  • As the U.S. populations ages, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will increase
    • 13% of people over 65 have Alzheimer’s
    • 42% of people over 85 have Alzheimer’s
    • In 2011, the 78.2 million baby boomers started turning 65
    • By 2050, 11 to 16 million people over 65 will have Alzheimer’s and 60% of people over 85 will have Alzheimer’s

Wandering is the most life-threatening behavior associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)

  • Wandering occurs at any stage of the disease (SAR Research website)
  • “There is no way to predict who will wander or when and how it might happen. The best advice for caregivers is to be prepared!
  • “When people with Alzheimer’s wander away from a caregiver, they seldom seek help, do not usually respond to shouts, and leave few physical clues to their whereabouts.”
  • 69% of wandering cases are associated with severe consequences.
  • 46% mortality rate if not located within 24 hours


Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability and also leads to wandering behavior (According to the Autism Society of America:

As of October 2009, two new government studies indicate about 1 in 100 children have autism disorders. The CDC indicates 1 in 110 children with autism.

The new estimate means approx 673,000 American children have autism

One study from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, based on telephone surveys, said parents reported that approx. 1 in 91 children, ages 3 to 17, had autism including milder forms such as Asperger’s syndrome

Every 20 minutes, a child is diagnosed with Autism. – Autism Speaks


In a recent NAA online survey, 92% of the respondents said their autistic child was at risk of wandering.

Down Syndrome

Many people with Down Syndrome require lifetime care and have the potential to wander or be missing (

One in every 733 babies is born with Down syndrome.
In the United States today, Down syndrome affects more than 400,000 people.

Another big concern we hear from parents is their child wandering off – not because they’re angry or running away, but rather, because they simply like to explore the neighborhood.

Impacts of Wandering

On the person with the disease…

    • Wandering and not being found within 24 hours can lead to significant injury or death
    • Concern over wandering causes a need for more supervision limiting the sufferer’s ability to do things
    • Inability to lead a normal life relative to the age

On the caregiver…

    • The consequences of a wandering incident range from the sinking feeling of a missing loved one to a tragic lonely death
    • Increased strain on caregiver providing care and its effects (e.g. depression, health issues, reduced employment)
      • The estimated cost of the 9.8 million “volunteer” caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s is $89 billion

On the facility…

    • Average cost of Assisted Living facility for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is ~$4000/month vs. ~$2000/month or non-AD patients
    • Costs associated with monitoring (e.g. a security system that warns when a resident with limited rights is leaving the building)
    • Limitations on outings for people with AD or other wandering illnesses, or additional staff and resources for the outing

On Law Enforcement…

    • Average search without PLI takes multiple hours, many resources at an average cost of $100-350K
    • Often the search results in unfortunate results (if not found within 24 hours the person is likely to be found injured or dead)

Before Project Lifesaver a search would take 7-9 hours and 40-60 officers, now it takes an average of 12 minutes and 2 officers.” – Ed Rochford, Morris County, NJ

 Program Cost

The goal of the Alexander County Project Lifesaver Program is to provide tracking services to anyone who is in need of the service.  The cost of the tracking bracelet and necessary supplies has been conveniently broken down into a monthly service fee that is collected when the client’s battery is changed by program staff.  This cost, while low compared to similar services or placement in an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit, may not be feasible for all clients.  In cases of financial hardship or other extenuating circumstances, alternative fee schedules can be placed into effect.  Please contact the program coordinator to discuss these options or to request more information.