The leading man, Gene Saunders, an alumnus of Southern Police Institute with rich professional experience, formed a non-profit corporation, Project Lifesaver International to develop a program for locating missing persons with dementia, Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Down syndrome, and other related illnesses.
Gene Saunders took the foundation of Lifesaver International in October 1998 in association with the Chesapeake, Virginia Sheriff’s Office. And under his well-guided supervision, the organization has successfully provided law enforcement, fire/rescue, other first responders, and caregivers with equipment and training to quickly locate and rescue individuals with cognitive disorders. The story that was scripted 23 years back as a small initiative, has grown to over 1,600 agencies in 50 states and 9 provinces in Canada with over 3,500 successful rescues today.
Recognized internationally as an expert and the father of radio-tracking recovery of persons at risk, Gene Saunders has been spearheading LSI to serve on the broader range in his role as Founder and CEO. He is a passionate social entrepreneur, Gene, is keen on making vital contributions towards the welfare of the society that would create a difference in the lives of the people with his organization.
He served with the Chesapeake, VA Police Dept for 33 years. During that time, he had collateral duty commanding the SWAT and SAR Unit. During that period, they had a number of search missions for Alzheimer’s patients that did not turn out well. In 1992 the leader took over the Sheriff’s Search and rescue Unit as commander and they had the same experiences. He learned of wildlife tracking and decided to try that technology with their searches for Special Needs persons. It worked and has now grown to over 1,658 member agencies participating in the Project Lifesaver program, accounting for over 3,800 rescues.
The Project Lifesaver
This public safety-based community has conducted over 3,174 successful rescues. Most who wander are found within a few miles from home, and search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. Recovery times for Project Lifesaver clients average 30 minutes — 95% less time than standard operations. Project Lifesaver is in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six provinces throughout Canada and in Australia with over 1,526 agencies
Project Lifesaver is also a subject matter expert and adviser on the wandering issue for:
- Leaders Engaged in Alzheimer’s disease (LEAD)
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,
- International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
- National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA)
- National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
- International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
The Project Lifesaver Program is run at a municipality level by public safety agencies. When an agency decides to implement the program, Project Lifesaver International will equip them with the necessary technologies and provide training to those involved. The training includes the use of the equipment, the implementation of the strategic methods specifically designed for the program, and also community policing courses that provide a basic understanding of cognitive conditions to better comprehend the behaviors of an individual with said condition. Also included during training is the use of the PLS Database, which is a useful resource provided to member agencies at no cost. Completion of training is required for certification. Once an agency has become certified, it may begin acquiring clients for its local program. The method relies on proven radio technology and specially trained search and rescue teams.
Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small transmitter on the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized frequency signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area. The first responders will then use the client’s individualized frequency to locate the position of the individual. The knowledge given from the community policing courses is best applied in this situation because the first responders will know how to best approach the client once found, and allow them to be brought back to safety.
From the CEO’s Desk
Diversify your organization’s offerings: By offering different designs of locating bracelets appealing to adults and/or kids.
Future Perspectives: To expand our program line and develop varied technologies to cover many lost person scenarios.
The greatest accomplishment: Founding and developing the Project Lifesaver program.
Prepared for the challenges: You respond to a situation after careful thought and developing opinions from trusted staff. Once you address the situation be ready to alter as necessary.
Secret sauce: NEVER QUIT!
Leadership principles: There is always one more thing you can do, you are only as good as your last operation.
Biggest failure & learning from it: Trusting the wrong people and moving too quickly on some projects.
Define Success: When all special needs people can be located through technology quickly and safely.
New Ideas in the Pipeline: Development of Bluetooth technology in this field and offering more unique avenues for people to enrol their loved ones in.
Leadership Skills: Tenacity, Fairness, Vision, Integrity.
The Driving Force: To continually move forward and adapt.
One characteristic that every leader should Have: Tenacity!!!!
Words of Wisdom: Just because everyone else thinks it’s crazy doesn’t mean it is.