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Search-and-rescue device expands training, coverage to South Shore communities

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 29, 2011 10:45 AM

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SafetyNet LoJack

Scott Martin, with SafetyNet LoJack, demonstrates the antenna used to find a lost person.

An eight-year old autistic boy wandered out of his Quincy house last September, walked down the street, and waded into the cold waters of Wollaston Beach. Fourteen minutes later, Quincy Police found him neck-deep in the water, 100 yards from shore.

The fast response time that saved the boy was attributed to a device known as the SafetyNet Bracelet by LoJack, a gadget worn on the wrist or ankle of a person with cognitive disabilities who is prone to wandering.

Although the bracelet has been around in Quincy since 2008, this week LoJack expanded its coverage and training to the South Shore, bringing 20 additional personnel from Plymouth County into the regionwide collaboration.

According to Sheriff Joseph McDonald Jr., with the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, bringing South Shore communities, including Hanover, Hingham, Norwell, and Scituate, on board with the LoJack bracelet initiative can only be a positive thing.

“We are constantly trying to do more and improve our services with less,” he said. “Interagency cooperation throughout the state is [important with that initiative]. This is an example of all of these synergies coming together.”

Oftentimes, towns throughout a county will work together in finding someone who is lost or has wandered. The structure provided around this initiative is another tool in that communitywide effort, McDonald said.

Giving a demonstration at the front of the room during the press conference on Thursday, LoJack personnel showed how the bracelet emits a radio frequency signal that can be tracked by dialing the specific ID number into a tracking device.

Waterproof up to 18 feet and with a signal that can go through dense woods, concrete, or even a building constructed with steel, the bracelet has provided families with wandering children or elderly relatives a comfort they didn’t have before.

Nationally, the bracelet has helped located over 1,000 people, and so far, the success rate of finding someone before they are injured has been 100 percent, said Scott Martin, the law enforcement director of LoJack.

“The average search is about 9 hours for somebody. With this, it’s about 30 minutes,” he said.

The six search-and-rescue devices, a kit which includes locating antennae and radio frequency responders, were given to Plymouth County free of charge.

For caregivers hoping to use the device for a family member with cognitive disabilities, there is also financial aid.

“Whoever needs this bracelet, we want to give it to them,” said Kathy Kelleher, vice president of LoJack SafetyNet.

Although the country has been in Norfolk county since 2008, and has expanded to Boston, Plymouth County and MetroWest, they are hoping to be throughout the state in the near future.

“Because it involved training, it takes time. But we are trying to go throughout Massachusetts,” she said.

The necessity of programs like this was demonstrated in the back of the room, where Rochester Chief of Police Paul Magee and Acushnet Chief Mike Alves were dressed in tactical uniforms, having come back from an eight-hour search-and-rescue from just that morning.

“This is an incredible tool,” Magee said. “We spent eight hours to find someone without it, and it will be a great asset to us when we use it.”

Individuals interested in bracelet can call 1-877-4-FIND-THEM or visit the LoJack website.

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