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Project Lifesaver helps find missing man in Santa Maria

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Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 06, 2022

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging people to enroll in Project Lifesaver.

It’s a technology that’s saving lives.

“It gives us an ability to look for these people when they've gotten away and the family can't find them,” said Jim Frank, Search and Rescue Team Incident Commander.

It’s an electronic monitoring system that locates people with Alzheimer’s, Autism or other cognitive disorders that have a tendency to wander.

The way it works is the individual wears a wristwatch-sized transmitter that sends out a radio frequency. If they go missing, search and rescue is able to pinpoint that transmitter’s location.

“Using that beeping tone we can track our way to these people,” Frank explained.

With vehicle and hand-held antennas, tracking works up to a quarter-mile away and up to seven miles away with aircraft.

Frank says they were able to locate a missing Santa Maria man on New Year’s Day.

“The other night, the team was driving down Main Street past Blosser and as the beeps got louder and louder they knew they were close and as it started getting quieter they knew they had just passed the person,” Frank said. “They were able to back up and search that immediate area.”

Within an hour, the Sheriff’s Office says the man was found lying in a muddy field.

According to Project Lifesaver’s website, the program has helped locate nearly 4,000 people nationwide since 1989.

“There is an initial fee of signing up with Project Lifesaver and that covers the cost of the transmitter itself as well as batteries,” said Raquel Zick, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer. “It runs about $400 but there is financial assistance available for people who need that.”

The Sheriff’s Office, volunteers, Search and Rescue and dispatch all work together to find missing persons which Frank says is especially rewarding.

“That's one of the reasons people volunteer on this Search and Rescue team because you're going out and you're helping somebody that you've never met before and in this case, it was four in the morning on New Year’s day,” Frank concluded.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, there’s a recruitment meeting on Tuesday, January 11 at 6 p.m. at the Search and Rescue Headquarters on San Antonio Road in Goleta.

Click here for information to sign up for Project Lifesaver in Santa Barbara County.

Click here for information on how to sign up for Project Lifesaver in San Luis Obispo County.