Mark Donaldson

Project Lifesaver was founded in 1999 to electronically track people at risk of wandering. The program is endorsed by the National Sheriff’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Project Lifesaver is presently in 320 Sheriff’s Offices and Police Agencies in 37 States. Over 1,200 rescues have been successfully conducted. The average rescue time is 22 minutes. The average number of trained officers used in a search is 2.

The Ector County Sheriff’s Office completed the required training to participate in the program on December 15, 2005. The Sheriff’s Office currently has 14 Deputies certified to conduct searches, and 6 certified instructors. Training included searching for missing persons as well as maintenance of tracking equipment (transmitters and receivers). Training of Pilot Club Members and Sheriff’s Deputies will be an on-going process.

The goal of Project Lifesaver of Ector County is to raise enough funds through donations, memorials and sponsorships to enable any Ector County citizen with Alzheimer's, Down's syndrome, autism, mental retardation or traumatic brain injuries who have a need for a transmitter to have this service for free or at a very low monthly cost.

A donation of only $500 will provide the transmitter and all supplies for one year for one client.  Through a special arrangement with Pilot International Foundation, checks over the amount of $500 may be made to the Foundation in order that the donation is claimed on the donor's tax returns. Funds will pass through the foundation, which is a 501(c) (3) organization.

All donations may be sent to the Pilot Club of Odessa at P.O. Box 4042, Odessa, Texas  79760, and will be acknowledged.

Clients wear a transmitter that is set to their own personal frequency as a bracelet or on their ankle. The Sheriff's Office has teams that have been specially trained to work with persons with brain disorders and they maintain the database of all clients and their frequencies.  When a client is reported missing, the Sheriff's Office is contacted and searchers begin using the tracking equipment that is much like that used to track wildlife and has a range of one to three miles on the ground.

They work outward in a spiral pattern from the location where the client was last seen.  It usually takes about 30 minutes to locate a missing person using 2 to 4 personnel.  To date, Project Lifesaver has a 100% success rate and locates the person much quicker using far less personnel.  All equipment remains the property of the Sheriff's Office according to Project Lifesaver International Policy.


10% of the population 65 and over have Alzheimer's disease. 
59% will wander at some point during the progression of the condition

7 out of 10 of those striken with Alzheimer's disease live at home

Experts say about 32,000 Alzheimer's patients wander way from home or long term care facilities each year

If a wandered person is not found within 24 hours, their survival rate drops to 46%

When wandering patients die, it was usually because they could go no further.  They were stopped by something and could not negotiate around the object that stopped them.

A study of 100 disappearances reported that Alzheimer's patients did not call out for help or respond to shouts from search teams.

Alzheimer's disease is just one form of dementia that may cause wandering.

The largest segment of the predicted Alzheimer's disease population is "Baby boomers" rapidly reaching retirement age.

The fastest growing segments of the population are people over age 85. 50% of that population has Alzheimer's disease.

By 2050 over 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease.

The average cost of a search for a wandered person in North Carolina is $1,500.00 per hour, less air support.

Statistics and information was compiled from the National Alzheimer's Association, the National Family Caregivers Association, the National Autism Society, National Down syndrome Congress, Prader-Willi Association, Brain Injury Association of America.

Statistics also from the study "He Comes Back Eventually" wandering behavior in Community Residing Persons with Alzheimer's disease Registered in Safe Return by Nina M. Silverstein, PhD  Gerontoloty Institute ad the University of Boston.