County Seeks Tracking System

Last year, the Peoria County Sheriff's Office established its own volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) Team to participate in searches for wandering and missing persons. The disappearance of John Garrett, a 73-year-old man living with Alzheimer's, nearly a year ago was the final impetus behind the decision to create a local SAR team. At the time, Peoria County's mobile and mounted auxiliary personnel were unable to participate in the extensive search efforts for Mr. Garrett due to lack of certification.

Established in May, the new team had 37 trained volunteers by early August. Peoria County's team, the 38th in the state, has already been called upon to assist with searches in neighboring and distant counties. In fact, the team's efforts resulted in the rescue of a man with Alzheimer's who had been missing for 24 hours last July in rural Douglas County. A Peoria County SAR volunteer located the 76-year-old man between two rows of corn in a cornfield, alive but unable to speak. He was transported to an Urbana hospital and listed in good condition.

We know from Mr. Garrett's disappearance, however, that not all searches end as successfully. Trained and certified search-and-rescue teams are a critical first step, but technology can also greatly improve the chances of a positive outcome. Therefore, the Peoria County Sheriff's Office not only seeks volunteers for its team, but is also investigating the possibility of becoming a Care Trak agency and joining hundreds of law enforcement, fire and SAR teams across the country that have already invested in the system.

Care Trak is a telemetry-based tracking system that locates individuals with the use of a hand-held directional antenna plugged into a receiver and a personal transmitter worn by the person at risk, whether it is an Alzheimer's patient or a child with autism, Down syndrome or another condition that causes a person to wander. Since Care Trak was developed in 1986, thousands of lost individuals have been rescued by trained emergency responders in less than 30 minutes on average, as much as a 95-percent reduction in the length of search without the assistance of a tracking device and transmitter. Indeed, since its inception, Care Trak has earned a 100-percent rescue rate.

While the Sheriff's Office has been able to establish a Search and Rescue Team due to its voluntary nature and minimal financial impact, the County has yet to be able to add to its budget the cost of the Care Trak System and personal transmitters for those in need but unable to afford one, as the combined total runs into the thousands. Therefore, we have established a donation fund from which 100 percent of donations would be utilized for the purchase and associated training of the Care Trak System. Donations of any amount are appreciated; a donation of $300 covers the cost of a personal transmitter for an individual in need. Donations may be made out and sent to Peoria County Search and Rescue, 301 N. Maxwell Road, Peoria IL, 61604. iBi

For more information on the Care Trak System and its benefits, visit caretrak.com. For more information on the SAR program or to become a volunteer, call (309) 697-8515 or email mmolleck@peoriacounty.org.

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